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Entrepreneurship, Second Edition by Andrew Zacharakis, William Bygrave

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13.2. Patents

Although there are actually three different kinds of patents, the kind you will usually seek to protect an invention is a utility patent. Think utility patent whenever you think "better, cheaper, faster." But don't confuse invention in the patent sense with "eureka"-type ideas. Most patents are simple combinations of well-known components. Consider the following examples.

In one case, a patent allegedly protected the notion of a document scanner equipped with a USB (universal serial bus) port. A USB is simply a connection between a computer and a peripheral device such as a scanner. The USB connection transfers data between the two and also allows the scanner to be powered from the computer. That way, with a USB connection, you don't have to plug the scanner into an electrical wall socket. Indeed, the scanner can even be powered by the computer's battery in the case of a portable computer. The "inventors" of this particular patent didn't invent either the USB or the scanner. But when they decided to put the two together, they won a patent.

Consider also aerogel, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's lightest substance. A block of aerogel as big as you weighs less than a pound but can support a small car. Recently, numerous companies have been patenting new uses for aerogel—as insulation, in fuel cells, and as building structures, just to give a few examples. Engineers at those companies didn't invent aerogel—a Stanford University researcher ...

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