A reader wrote in asking, "How do inventors successfully 1) market, 2) distribute and 3) grow profit from unpatented or unpatentable ideas?" The reader had an invention that was unpatentable in the United States because it had been publicly disclosed for over a year.
While the reader was in a position she had not intended to be in, a growing number of inventors deliberately forgo/delay patenting and take their product straight to market. Alternatives to patenting an innovation include: obtaining a trademark on the name, or copyrighting the rules or instructions. Rubik's Cube or Coca-Cola were never patented, good trademarks and great marketing brought those products success. Trade secrets are also an alternative, if your product is nearly impossible to reverse engineer. And if you can't patent your invention, maybe you can patent an accessory or disposable that makes your invention better.
For further information check our "Alternatives to Patents" directory and consult a intellectual property expert.