But like our friend Sir Issac Newton found out, for every action there is an opposite reaction.
The opposite action to the fun of a challenge for most inventors (myself included) is the less than fun part of learning about subjects we need to know, but don't particularly enjoy.
One such subject in our industry is Patent Law.
These technical looking documents crafted by smart, educated people often intimidate and bore us.
Okay, I said it, Patents are boring - they are no fun to read, they are expensive, and worst of all they don't make us feel very smart.
For that reason when I run across a tidbit of information about patents that helps explain the subject in terms we can all understand, I always try to bring it to your attention.
Below is a simple explanation (from patent attorney Quan Nguyen) of the four primary terms that will affect your ability to file for protection on your invention.
Public Use = No grace period. You cannot file a patent.
Public Sale = No grace period. You cannot file a patent
Public Disclosure = 1 year grace period if disclosure is by the inventor or the disclosed content by third party is derived from the inventor. If Not - No grace period and you cannot file a patent
Secret Use = USPTO position is that secret use or trade secret subject matter is patentable. However, this USPTO position is untested by the courts and we will have to see how the law will develop with respect to secret use
You can see by these definitions that how and what you do with your invention is critical to the protections you can receive.
That said, remember only a small percentage (estimated to be less than 20%) of retail products are patented. Even know running off to get a patent is what most inventors want to do, it's not normally the best course of action for a normal retail product.
What is a good idea is to understand how these four terms can affect you later if you do decide to seek patent protection - and as always get the advice of a licensed patent attorney or a broker authorized to practice before the US Patent Office.