So I drive all the way out to Charlotte at 10 on a Saturday morning to meet with a rep from the Invention Submission Corporation (ISC) about an idea I'd like to market. I'm not really looking to get rich off of my idea, which is good since as it turns out, only about one invention in fifty makes money in the open market. I wasn't expecting to loose money for having a good idea. To boil down a long and useless story, it takes about $13,000 to get an idea in front of a large number of people and companies who are in a position to do something with it AND do so in such a way that Johnson & Johnson (or whoever) will not simply relieve you of your idea because it has not been proven, built, or patented and as such doesn't actually belong to anyone. But the morning was not a total loss. I learned some unpleasant things about making money as a private innovator. For one, about two-thirds of the products in the world right now are not patented. To attempt to patent them would risk infringing on existing (but different) patents. This being said, it is easier to go ahead and produce something, say a tape measure with a laser sight on it without patenting it; to attempt to make the laser idea uniquely yours would bankrupt your company in legal fights. Some things just aren't unique enough to protect. The flip side is this, no one else can patent that useful, marketable idea either. So, as long as you can make them better, cheaper or more durrable, Home Depot will buy cases of your product. This is good. If things like that could be patented, we'd all be limited to one brand of multitool or one brand of shock-absorbers for our cars. Bad for innovators though, since it takes at a minimum $1,000 to find out your idea is not novel enough; and if it is, throw in another $2,000 and three years wait to get that patent. Then go knocking on Pfizer's door.