Cornell's Legal Information Institute has an excellent reference list for US patent law. Getting a regular patent has USPTO fees of ~2000 US$, but you can file a provisional patent application for $80, which locks in your patentability for a year while you try to bring the product to market (so you can afford the $2k in USPTO fees). Additionally, Nolo.com's Legal Encyclopedia is another amazing reference for all aspects of small business life. ;)
Sometimes it's nice to have a day that shows you how dumb you are. I've been a network/system administrator for 5+ years, and I've seen plenty of USENIX ads, mentionings, comments, etc., but not once did I ever try to see if the papers were online and useful. Sigh.