Since breakthrough inventions are costly, hard, and precarious, patents can be fair rewards for invention and can provide funding to enable future inventions. The funding widens the opportunity to invent, as illustrated by the tinkering working-class inventors who developed and applied steam power in Britain in the Industrial Revolution, and who later invented many of the agricultural and manufacturing tools and processes in the United States in the 1800s. Working-class inventors could hire patent agents, for modest fees, to help with the legal paperwork. Later, important breakthrough inventors such as Thomas Edison and Dean Kamen depended on patents of earlier inventions to fund their later inventions. Patent reforms can counter flaws (such as costly frivolous litigation) in the current patent system. Invention can also be encouraged by private institutional innovations, following the examples of micropayments for web content, and patent pools by firms such as Intellectual Ventures.
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