The 56th anniversary of the first broadcast of Star Trek just passed on September 8. I recently moderated a panel discussion at the Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, titled “Patents in the Future,” where I asked one of my favorite patent questions, one that most patent attorneys get wrong. If I find an alien invention and figure out how it works, can I patent it? I usually get the impatient answer “no” because I didn’t invent it—isn’t that obvious? But actually that’s not correct. I can get a patent.

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