Many inventors spend a long time developing their inventions. They think about it for a very long time and when they decide to create it to see if their idea is feasible they usually spend a lot more time and money in creating a working prototype. Naturally inventors would want to recoup their investment in time and money and make profits probably a big one. They naturally would not give their invention for free.
However there are many bad people who do not understand the hardships and sacrifices that inventors go through to create a new product. Many people want things for free to the point of not properly compensating the owner of the products and even stealing from the owners. That is why inventors file patents. Patents are meant to protect inventors from bad people who may use their inventions without their authorisation.
Can patents really protect an inventor and are their expensive price worth it? I would elaborate the patent process from start to beginning and then you can answer this question yourself.
The first thing an inventor files is a Provisional Patent Application or PPA. This patent registers you as the first person to file for a patent on the said invention. The patent office does not evaluate this but just files it. Many online articles teach that not only is it cheap to file (about $65 to $260 in the US) but you can also do it yourself.
One drawback of a provisional patent application is that it is used as a reference by the patent office if you actually do file a regular patent application. This means that the level of details of a provisional patent must coordinate the details of a regular patent application. This is not likely done by non-professionals in patent application and one would still need the services of a professional patent attorney which cost a lot of money.
Assuming you file a provisional patent and start showing the invention around to prospective parties that may be interested in it there is the danger that these parties may know that you do not have the capacity to file a new patent. They can just wait for one year until your provisional patent expires and then start using your invention without compensating you.
You can try to prevent this by asking them to sign an NDA or None Disclosure Agreement which prevents them from working with other people to use your invention. However NDAs can easily be worked around by bad people. They can for example use a 3rd party unknown to you to use your invention and these bad people can share the profits with the 3rd party without compensating you.
Even if you do file a regular patent counterfeiters can still continue copying your product without your authorisation and there is not much the law can do with it. If your patent does eventually come out you can go to court to try to seek compensation from the counterfeiters. Court verdicts however are notorious for not giving patent owners their due compensation.
Many patent owners end up losing money in litigation costs even if they win. Another reason why counterfeiters are not scared even though you have filed a patent application already is maybe they know that you do not have the financial resources and will to go after them. Maybe these counterfeiters are well financed companies which know how to manipulate the laws.
They may also know that you have a weak attorney that you used because you have limited funds to pay the attorney. They may have studied your patent and found out that there are loopholes in your patent and that it is not drafted well. Counterfeiters with strong legal connections can easily get this information.
The counterfeiters may also know that you do not have the resources or connections to have your invention manufactured. This may in turn lead you to not pursuing your invention fully which may cause you to stop paying annual patent maintenance fees. When this happens your patent ceases to become effective and counterfeiters will be free to copy the invention without legal repercussions.
I am not surprised if there are many counterfeiters searching patent databases for expired and discontinued patents to copy, modify or improve. This is especially true now that patent databases are available online and anyone can access it especially those who can pay professional patent registration researchers.
Maybe you can protect your patent in your country but you still have to contend with overseas counterfeiters. Patents only work in 1 country and you need to file individual patent applications for each country you want to protect your invention rights.
This can be very expensive and very few individuals have the financial means to protect their patent on a global basis. The flipside of this is that counterfeiters can file a patent on your invention in their own countries if you do not file a patent application in their country first.
There are also countries that will require you to also setup manufacturing facilities in their country to provide employment opportunities to the locals if you want to sell your invention in the country. In these cases even if you do have a patent in that country as well it would just be useless unless you also have the financial resources to setup a local manufacturing facility.
Your patent may also be rejected by a country because of national concerns like for economic and security reasons. They may consider your invention a threat and the country can let the local competitors thrive instead of you. In this case you have the money but the patent is useless.
If you cannot depend on partners for patent and manufacturing costs then you can try crowdfunding. Online sites like Kickstarter can provide you with startup capital but since you have to go public with your invention there is a high likelihood that your eventual patent application will be invalidated by the patent office because patent rules dictate that they remain confidential to the public.
As can be seen it is very to make your invention into a successful product unless you have the sufficient resources to fight against counterfeiters which includes patents. Patents are not however the ultimate solution to success against counterfeiters and competitors. There are many inventors who have managed to thrive and even succeed without using patents.
Usually these inventors bring out their products so fast that even counterfeiters and competitors do not anticipate it and therefore fail to copy and compete against these inventors. Before these counterfeiters and competitors have reacted the inventors would have saturated the market and have achieved brand loyalty among their customers.
This is one way to compete without a patent but there are other ways. But what is most important is that you create a product that is so focused to your customers that they will buy it from you exclusively.
In the end protection from counterfeiters is just one part of the business but finding out what your customers want is the most important thing.