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A U.S. patent is a grant of a property right to the inventor(s) and is issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It gives the patent owner the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling, or importing the invention in the United States, its territories and possessions. This right expires 20 years after the application filing date and is not renewable. (See utility patents)
After filing a patent application, but before the patent is granted, the inventor(s) has a reservation on owning the invention. This period is called "patent pending" and products and sales materials may be so marked. During this period, if a competitor markets a product that will be infringing when your patent issues, you have the right to notify the competitor of your patent pending, and when your patent issues, the competitor will be subject to pay damages to you from this date of notice. This could result in several years of damages due to you.
As you can see, a patent pending invention is a valuable property that generally becomes the basis for establishing income. Most inventors establish this income source by licensing patent pending rights to a manufacturer already in the same market space.
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