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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Independent Inventors: An Uncertain Future

Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 3.0 license

From Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Edison, individual inventors have long been symbols of American ingenuity and innovation, creating products and launching businesses based on new technologies they developed. And for more than 200 years the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been their protector.In recent years decades, independent inventors are facing new opportunities to cash in on their creations, thanks to the marketing and networking power of the Internet. But they also face new challenges from an increasingly complex and expensive patenting process.This year, a new federal law changed the method the patent office had used for 200 years to determine who should hold rights to a patent. Some say the change will help correct the problems small inventors face, while others say it will only hasten their decline.

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