Risks of Disclosing Your Invention Prior to a Patent Filing
The possibility of having your new idea stolen before you have applied for a patent is something that has haunted every new inventor.
It is important to keep the details of your new idea secret until you have at least applied for a patent. In addition to the possibility of your idea being stolen, there are other potential pitfalls of disclosing your invention before a patent application is applied for.
Most importantly, prematurely disclosing your invention can jeapordize your ability to obtain patent protection.
In the United States, there are certain deadlines which must be met in order to avoid the loss of patent rights. One of these is that in the United States an inventor must file a patent application with the United States Patent & Trademark Office within one year of the first date on which the invention was in public use or sale or described in a printed publication.
Be very careful about how you interpret the public use or sale and printed publication. These are legal terms that are imterpreted broadly and encompass an almost infinite variety of circumstances. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of maintaining absolute secrecy when dealing with your invention. A lot of inventors have lost valuable patent rights due to failure to keep their invention secret.
It is important that the details of an invention be kept confidential until the idea is “patent pending”. Naturally, it is also critical that you not permit anything to be published about your invention until a patent has been filed. Many university professors and research assistants have lost patent rights because they revealed their invention in articles, journals, or scientific publications, and even websites.