Turning bright ideas into useful products is something mankind has done for centuries, but today creativity is at a new high, fuelled by the Internet -- an invention that has changed the way the world communicates.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office grants more than 180,000 patents a year and operates under complex legislation, a far cry from the first U.S. Patent Law in 1790 which consisted of just seven sections. In fact, you can trace America's first patent for an invention to Massachusetts in 1640.]
The importance of encouraging and safeguarding creative inventions and new ideas was recognised in the Constitution of the United States (Article 1, Section 8, clause 8) which gives Congress power to promote science by "securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."
Inventions and bright ideas are an international phenomenon and the Internet has many dozens of sites eager to help inventors market their ideas. Or to help those wanting to buy and sell inventions and patents; or offering to take bright ideas and turn them into finished products. If you have a good idea and want to turn it into a moneymaking invention, your first step is to apply for a patent. Protect your idea while it is still yours. Patenting requirements vary from one country to another, but in the United States you follow a simple online process reached through the Patent Office website (http://www.uspto.gov/).>
Vacuum cleaner and ballpoint pen
Successful inventors such as Edison, Nobel or Einstein are household names, but those same households are full of inventions by people long forgotten, unless they named their inventions after themselves, such as William H. Hoover of vacuum cleaner fame. (Although he didn't invent it, he just bought the patent.)
Some inventions are so much a part of life that we completely take them for granted. The ballpoint pen, for example, which began with an American patent in 1888 only reached the form in which we know it in 1952, thanks to the Hungarian Biro brothers and Frenchman Marcel Bich)
Inventions aren't always the result of brand new ideas; they can be creative adaptations of existing products and designs. For instance, the Swiss Army Knife concept has been reworked to include bathroom essentials such as toothbrush, hair comb nail file and make-up brushes, along with blades.
Creative inventions and ideas have spawned support industries. Specialist magazines, offline and online, cater to the modern enthusiasm for inventing, plus seminars, conferences and training courses. Associations give inventors the chance to meet one another and swap ideas.
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