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The basic principles of patent protection have changed little since 1790 -- if you devise a novel invention and qualify for a patent, you can, for a limited time, prevent anyone else from making, selling, or using it. For two centuries, businesses and inventors have used patent protection for products, processes, plants, and designs. However, the technological changes of the past 25 years have dramatically altered the patent landscape. The number of utility patent applications has nearly quadrupled since 1980. Since the patent system began, over eight million U.S. patents have been granted. The explosive growth in biotechnology, information exchange, and the advent of business method and software patents has resulted in more patents being issued than ever before. Patents are now considered an integral part of many large and small business's strategic business plan. And this strategy is not limited to corporate boardrooms. For example, the total revenue from patents for non-profit universities has gone from less than one million dollars in 1980 to over half a billion dollars today. To stay current with the modern world of patents, we have created a compact summary of changes in patent law and procedure.

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