How to Protect Your Million-Dollar Idea

Did you know that Michael Jackson’s patented gravity-defying lean is actually…patented?! It’s true! In 1993 the smooth criminal himself was granted U.S. Patent #5,255,452 for a “method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion.” (Spoiler alert: It’s not magic.)

M.J.’s not the only celebrity inventor out there. Near the end of his long career, Marlon Brando created a new device for tuning a drum. Back in the day, famed escape artist Harry Houdini dreamed up an improved diver’s suit that’s easier to put on (and take off) than previous versions. And in 1987 Eddie Van Halen secured the patent for a musical instrument support apparatus that helps a musician hold his guitar perpendicular to his body, thus allowing for more tasty licks per minute than ever before in the history of rock.

So what does this have to do with you? Well, you’re an independent inventor, right? You’ve thought up an idea for the next big thing—we’re talking bigger than sliced bread (and you’re just in time, too, because it’s National Inventors Month). But before you go bringing your invention in front of potential investors, you’ll want to make sure your creation is protected. Nothing kills the high of a “Eureka!” moment like someone ripping off your million-dollar idea—or, maybe even worse, someone claiming that you ripped off theirs. That’s where the United States Patent and Trademark Office comes in. Secure a patent and you can “prevent others from making, selling, or using your invention (or its functional equivalent) for a twenty-year period from the date the patent application is first filed.” That’s a pretty sweet deal.

The Independent Inventor's HandbookOf course there’s much more to learn before you release your product to the masses—regarding patents and beyond. For more about getting your idea off the ground and into the hands of many, pick up a copy of The Independent Inventor’s Handbook by Louis J. Foreman and Jill Gilbert Welytok.

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