How Valuable are Patents

I have just heard that our first patent has been filed (not sure what that means yet). I had started the process for several countries in my previous company, and it never completed prior to me selling the company.

This one was first submitted when I started in the beginning of 2006 which means that it took most of 4 years to get to where it is now (my lawyer told me I can talk about it now). The process is amazing to me. There is most of a week worth of work to get the idea put together to communicate to the patent attorney. He then goes off for several months and writes the draft. Then you have to read the 20 to 30 pages of legalese (and try to stay awake and attentive). A couple rounds of revisions, then if goes to the black hole for several years. Eventually you hear back that everything is thrown out – and that they totally missed the point of the differences that you and the lawyer had worked out. A few more responses into the muddy hole (3 month response instead of years) and you finally get somewhere.

So once the patent is granted, then what? We have strategies of our own to execute, but I would love to hear from anyone who has gone through the patent process. I am in new territory and would love some advice!