Fifteen years of remodeling homes had taken a physical toll on David S. Czerkie. By 1997, the East Peoria, Ill., contractor knew he had two options: Either close up shop or expand and hire more helpers.

Czerkie chose door number one, because he had a dream. An avid fly-fisherman, he had been at work for several years on an invention he hoped would lead to a new career in the fishing industry. He had developed a new design for a fly rod case, but he had no idea how to patent it — and no money for lawyers.

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