Want to trade some cold, hard cash for a piece of paper and a pipe dream? Well, look no further than the US Patent Office.
Yes, indeed, the USPTO has quietly increased its weekly patent grant count by more than 30% over the past year.
"The past seven-weeks rank as the top-seven weeks of all time in terms of the number of utility patents issued," noted Professor Dennis Crouch of the University of Missouri.
"The difference appears to come from two avenues: changes in PTO policies and procedures that provide patent examiners more opportunity to find patentable claims and changes in patent applicant behavior in favor of accepting narrower claims."
So, how much does it cost to successfully convince the USPTO that your idea is unique and worth of an official stamp of approval from Uncle Sam?
Well, IP expert Eric Knight estimates that a patent submission will set you back a cool $545.
"[However], should you be successful with your patent application - that is, the USPTO Patent Examiner says that you have an allowable application - you'll need to pay $755 to have your patent issued. So, all totaled, the fees to the USPTO would be $1,300," explained Knight.
"[And] of course, as with anything, there are other costs that you might have to incur. For instance, will you have to pay someone to create the drawings of your invention that you'll have to submit with your patent application? If you're 'artistically challenged' like me, you'll either need to find someone to help — or use some of the neat software tricks I've learned to turn photographs into 'line art' drawings."
Yes, but how many patents actually make money for their inventors? Unsurprisingly, not very many, as only 3,000 out of 1.5 million patents are commercially viable.
"In truth, odds are stacked astronomically against inventors, and no marketing outfit can change them. There are around 1.5 million patents in effect and in force in this country, and of those, maybe 3,000 are commercially viable," USPTO Richard Maulsby spokesperson told BusinessWeek in a 2005 interview.
"It's a very small percentage of patents that actually turn into products that make money for people. On top of all that, to get ripped off for tens of thousands of dollars [by unscrupulous marketing companies] adds insult to injury."
So it sounds as if buying up oil-saturated swamp land in Florida may be a more profitable enterprise! Keep your cash, people, at least until the recession is over. Don't sell your house and drain those college accounts - it just simply isn't worth it!