In truth there is no limit to how much work a person could do to ensure that his patent is exploited in market; if he cant make it, someone else might, or he may license the patent for someone else to exploit. However, in reality there are plenty of fields of invention that are difficult to enter. What are the likely outcomes if someone files a patent application in a field that he will never be able to exploit?

For example: I am a simple man, and I file a patent application for a new jet propulsion system on a NASA-based rocket. Or, I file a patent application on a new nanoscale connector for an Intel IC chip.

What would one advise a client regarding the potential lifecycle of such a patent application?

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The most important question is why you want to pursue a patent if you can't personally sell products based on it. The most obvious reason is to license the technology to companies that can use it. This is done all the time, especially in the pharmaceutical industry. One of the difficulties if the invention is in a capital intensive industry like semiconductors is the ability to fully enable it. That said, people do obtain patents with the sole objective to license them. It is important to note that a patent is only as good as your ability to enforce it. Some inventions such as production processes may make it difficult to detect infringement. Suing large companies can be expensive. You may want to consider working with an out licensing company. A famous one is Intellectual Ventures. They are not without controversy.

You should consider a patent strategy. Patents are territorial so patenting solely in the US may not provide the potential licensees enough economic value. Your patent lawyer may be able to help with this.

Another reason for obtaining a patent may be notoriety. A famous example of this was the Solar Power Satellite patent by Peter Glaser. This was an idea that was so far ahead of its time that there was no possibility to implement it within the patent's term. Regardless, it established Dr. Glaser's futurist credentials, which no doubt helped with his career goals.

Lastly, there are people who pursue patents solely for personal satisfaction. I've read enough examples of what I consider vanity patents to know this isn't all that rare.

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