Abraham Lincoln was a strong advocate of the patent system, declaring that “The Patent System added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”
However, a patent doesn’t mean your idea is marketable, nor does it mean it’s capable of generating income. All it means is that your idea is reasonably unique, and it gives you the right to defend your idea (at your own expense) for the life of the patent, which is seventeen years from the initial filing date.
Unfortunately, only 5% – 7% of patented ideas ever make money for the inventor — a dismal statistic in light of the time and money that inventors pour into the process.
The real question is the marketability of an idea — is there a demand for it, and can it be sold for a profit?
To patent an idea without determining its viability is like like booking a honeymoon before you’ve even popped the question.
So do your homework. Shop around. Is there a demand for your idea (in other words, would anyone other than your friends and family buy it)? Do you have a real, live distribution channel? And can you (and everyone else involved) make a profit?
And remember, Abe Lincoln received patent #6469 for a device to lift boats over shoals (pictured below), but he never saw a dime from the invention.