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An invention patent is a property right, a valuable business asset. It allows the owner to stop others from making, using, selling, and importing the protected invention. This right, for "utility patents", expires 20 years after its application filing date and is not renewable. After filing, "patent pending" may be placed on products for sale, brochures, business cards, Internet pages, and so on.
A patent pending is also a business asset. This asset is commonly used to establish a licensing deal, raise business startup capital, or enter into a joint business venture. Just as soon as your invention is patent pending you should start to take commercial steps. Never wait until your patent is granted; make the assumption that it will be, and act accordingly.
If you do not protect your invention with a patent, others have the right to copy your invention, manufacture it, and sell it. This may dilute your market considerably or wipe it out entirely. Also, if others obtain patent rights on the same, or even a similar invention they may be able to force you out of the market or impose a heavy licensing fee on your sales.
Patents that protect a significant market are typically sold for very large sums.
"Design patents" expire after 14 years from their date of issuance.
Provisional Protection: While your application is pending, if a competitor markets a similar product you may place him on notice. When your patent issues, if his product infringes, you have the right to demand a fair licensing fee against his sales from the date of your notice. This could be years, and the fees collected can be large!