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It's not necessary to spend the money to obtain a patent in order to prevent others from patenting an invention. All you need to do is make the invention available by publishing it somewhere discoverable by the relevant public. The publication doesn't need to be in an academic journal either. A recent case found that a message on Usenet was sufficiently public because Usenet is organized hierarchically into newsgroups on various topics. A blog post would also probably suffice, so long as it's indexed by a search engine.

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