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1 in 3 Americans Invent, but Few Pursue Patents: FindLaw Survey

By Brett Snider, Esq. on November 10, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

One in three Americans are sitting on a patentable idea, but very few of them have actually applied for a patent.

According to a recent survey, 32 percent of Americans have an idea that they would deem patent-worthy, but only 10 percent of home inventors have even taken the first step toward obtaining a patent for an invention.

What else does this survey reveal about American desire to innovate and invent, and how can patents help?

Many Inventors Inspired by TV

Surprised that so many Americans have inventions on the brain? FindLaw's Manager of Proprietary Sites Stephanie Rahlfs suggests that maybe the answer lies in TV. "The popularity of reality TV shows such as 'Shark Tank' and PBS' 'Everyday Edisons' may be encouraging people to develop their own inventions," Rahlfs explains, although it's still "important that would-be inventors protect their ideas."

ABC's "Shark Tank" has spurred numerous Americans to pursue their inventive dreams (with one product even spawning a celebrity lawsuit). It should be even more apparent from the increased visibility of new inventions that innovators need legal protections for their ideas. Yet, according to the survey, only 1 in 10 home inventors has spoken to a patent attorney about an invention or even applied for a patent.

But if the dreams are there, why are patent protections so important in making it a reality?

Patents Protect New, Improved Creations

Although companies like Tesla can afford to give away all of their patented ideas, the guy in his garage with a breakthrough typically can't. Patents protect inventions which are both "novel" and "nonobvious," and they allow inventors to reap the fruits of their ingenuity for decades before allowing the market to provide a cheap copy.

And while many Americans may think they have a great design or invention that will change our lives, without proper legal guidance, patent protection will disappear in the face of easy-to-make mistakes. Even though nearly one-third of Americans believe they have a patentable idea, ironically there are some inventors who create incredible advances in their respective fields who fail to realize their ideas are patentable (see combination invention patents).

No one expects 32 percent of Americans to know the contours of intellectual property law; that's why we have attorneys. Don't leave your ideas unprotected, become one of the 10 Americans who consults with a patent attorney today.

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