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Young Inventors - The Value of Intellectual Property

From Mary Bellis,
Your Guide to Inventors.
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What good are inventions?

Throughout history, inventions have helped people discover new worlds, build communities, develop resources, increase productivity, cure diseases, ease burdens, and enjoy life to the fullest.


New inventions lead to new technologies, create new jobs, and improve our quality of life. A patent helps an inventor to make money from his or her invention by allowing only the inventor or those who get his or her permission to make and sell the invention. Patents encourage investing in research since research results in new inventions.

In 1900, a Japanese diplomat who was sent to the United States to study the American patent system had this to say, "We (Japan) have looked about us to see what nations are the greatest, so that we can be like them. We asked what made the United States such a great nation? We investigated and found that it was patents."

What Is Intellectual Property?

Patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets are "intellectual property". These are products that come from a creative mind. Intellectual property is imagination made real. It is another asset just like your home, your car, or your bank account. Just like other kinds of property, intellectual property needs to be protected from theft and misuse.

Making An Invention Famous With Brand Names and Trademarks

If an invention is new and unfamiliar, it is important for inventors to create a good brand name to call their invention. An interesting brand name or trademark can attract customers. Sometimes it take a while for a trademark to catch on and the fact that the invention is desirable is what eventually makes the trademark for the invention popular. In other cases, when the new invention may be okay, but not great, a really catchy trademark can make the invention even more successful.

What Does Generic Mean?

A trademark can become from the customer's point of view, a generic name. For example, the word escalator was once the trademark for a moving stairway. There was the Escalator brand of moving stairway and other moving stairways were never called Escalators. Now escalator is the word we use for all moving stairways and nobody uses the name moving stairway. If a trademark becomes too familiar or generic nobody can claim trademarks rights to that name. Inventors can lose their exclusive right to use a trademark.

Trademark Symbols - TM, SM, ®

What is the difference between the notations TM or SM and the ® or registration symbol? TM and SM usually indicate that someone is claiming trademark rights, however, they have not registered the trademark with the with the United States Patent and Trademark Office or USPTO.

The ® registration symbol can only be used after the trademark is actually registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office USPTO.

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