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1. Is there anyway of getting a patent low cost ? ? perhaps by doing the leg work themselves or drawings sketches myself ?

Yes. It's a pain in the butt to do it yourself but it can be done.

However, you seem to fail to understand what a patent & copyright are.

A copyright is the right to control publication of a form of media, a "work of art". Basically, it's the right to sue the pants off anybody that copies what you already did such as making a copy of a videotape, a book, etc. It doesn't do anything for inventions.

A patent is the right to sue the pants off anybody that tries to make money off an idea within a limited period of time. The idea has to be original, no prior art, novel, etc. The cost of the patent can be under $5-6K if you do most of the leg work yourself (there are such things as legitimate discounted patent attorneys), BUT again, it's just the right to sue. Most patent cases I'm aware of took years in court and cost close to $1MM to fight. So they dwarf the cost of getting the patent.

In addition, you have to publish the idea in order to patent it. This is a serious problem. In a former life as an engineer, it was pretty easy for me to spend a couple days figuring out a way to one-up your original idea. Then I can produce the new product based on the improved idea and ignore your patent with impunity.

A third possibility is called a trade secret. In this case, you swear your employees to keep the process/product a deep, dark secret. You can sue the pants off the employee/rival company for stealing your trade secret. You just can't sue them for coming up with the exact same idea (which is what the patent does for you).

However, I look at it this way. It takes several years after the initial patent application before the patent is issued. It will take months or years for a rival company to get a new product off the ground in most cases. In the mean time, you're sitting on your hands and not out there selling the product. The trade secret lets you get the development done and start hawking the thing immediately, with no forewarning to the competitor (via the patent application). So you've got a 1-5 year lead on them (depending on development time). You've already published all the details in the patent so the competitor doesn't have to do any product development. In my experience at looking at these things, it always seems like the patent nets you another 5 years at MOST on your idea monopoly.

So in summary, financially patents don't make a lot of sense. It's not a license where you can prosecute. It's simply a license to sue. Practically, the time window they afford you is small and usually can't be utilized effectively. Which means that a trade secret is usually the better route to go. It's almost as good as a patent and you don't have to broadcast your intentions or your idea to your competitor. And I don't know where you ever got the idea that a copyright does any good at all for anything other than a publication.
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