Some inventors manage to file a patent application because they need the certificate to show to his or her friends, colleagues and otherwise satisfy the ego. One of my past clients has improved a boomerang and was very happy officially being the second inventor ever who invented a novel boomerang. He hang the patent certificate on the wall - next to his gorgeous hand painted three-blade boomerangs and was satisfied with this assessment, though he clearly realized that making a boomerang business would be rather impossible to make it profitable.
However, patent system was not created for ego satisfaction - it was created as an idea protection toolkit, which is dedicated for promotion of creativity and facilitation of commerce.
As mentioned in our previous posts, patent principles were formulated in early 510 B.C.E. In few words, a patent provides a monopoly for a limited period of time (typically 20 years) in the countries, where it is validated. Validation is very important aspect related to the rights, granted by a patent. For utility inventions worldwide protection does not exist - at least in our experience - we have not found a patent yet, which is validated in all countries of the World. It simply does not pay off.
What is monopoly for patents?
A valid and strong patent gives the patent holder a right to sue any other person (legal or natural), who is producing, importing, trading or using the protected invention and gaining commercial benefit from it. Non-commercial and personal use is allowed, i.e. a person can buy the invention in other country, where it isn't protected and bring it home, where the patent is valid. The patent holder could not sue such person unless he or she is using it to generate revenue. Some similar exclusions are applied for scientists, who are reproducing a protected invention just to implement a research experiment. However some research activities are closely related to later commercial applications, therefore it should be carefully considered if to use the patented product/technology or not. In US it is even more strict - only "purely philosophical" research is allowed when using a patented invention to implement the experiment.
Exclusivity, but not a right to produce...
Most products contain several patented ideas. Therefore, being an author of on of those ideas does not necessarily allows you to produce the whole product. If other patented features are used, one has to buy licenses from other inventors in order to bring his or her idea to the market.
As a rule of thumb, this is not relevant to individual inventors, who are focusing on development of new ideas, rather on production. The key target for them are sales of licences or patent rights.
Another group of patent holders, who don't care about production, are patent trolls. A patent troll is usually having weak patents in their pocket and blackmailing respected companies, by asking amounts of money, which are less than regular litigation expense for the company. This is legal and it is the dark side of the patent world, which deserves a separate post...
What can I do with my patent?
Patents like any other property right - it may be sold, licensed, mortgaged, assigned or transferred, given away, or simply abandoned.