Protect ideas that are novel, useful and non-obvious -inventions. Patents give their owners the exclusive right to make, use or sell the idea for a period of 14 to 17 years (depending on the type of patent). Generally, an employee owns his/her inventions subject to three exceptions: (1) a carefully-worded contract; (2) when an employee was specifically hired or subsequently directed to invent a particular invention; and (3) when an employee, through words, silence, actions or inactions, has caused the employer to rely on the use of the employees inven_tion.

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