Consider several paths to commercialization: Transferring the ownership of your patent outright means you receive an agreed-upon payment, with no future royalties. You may sell all or any part of the invention, though selling is rarely recommended. While your patent may not have a current application, or you may not discern it, the future could hold commercial opportunities unforeseeable today. Selling your invention might deprive you of a potential fortune.

Another route in the commercialization process is licensing, through which you retain ownership of your patent while allowing another party to make, use or sell the invention; in exchange, you receive royalty payments.

If you're highly entrepreneurial, you can tackle the job of launching your own company. This means you'll need to master everything from fundraising to manufacturing, selling and distribution. For assistance in starting your own company, you can contact the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Inventor Handbook is written as a preliminary guide for inventors and where legal rights are concerned, the reader should consult a qualified attorney.