As mentioned in our post “IP Prep Before a Big Event”, public disclosure may impact your intellectual property rights.
The U.S. patent system encourages sharing of intellectual property to help facilitate technological advances and in turn provides limited protection of this intellectual property.
In the spirit of encouraging people to share information via the patent system, there is a limited window of time that you are eligible to apply for patent protection of an idea. For the U.S., this window of time is a one year countdown that starts from when an invention is publicly disclosed, though the rules vary from country to country.
What counts as public disclosure? Well, public disclosure broadly refers to some form of communication that makes your intellectual property accessible to the public. Public disclosure comes in many forms—from printed publications to the Internet to offers of sale. Basically, unless invention information is communicated in a private and confidential manner, it may be considered public.
In view of the above, one strategy to avoid a filing time crunch is to simply file for patent protection before public disclosure.
By filing for patent protection prior to public disclosure, it will be clear that this public disclosure of the invention cannot be used against the patent application during prosecution. Moreover, filing for patent protection can be a selling point for both customers and investors, and may ward off potential copy-cats, among other benefits.
So, when preparing for a big event where you will be discussing a new product or idea, consider the benefits of filing for patent protection ahead of time. Filing ahead of time can give you an ease of mind when discussing your ideas and may make prosecution of the patent easier down the road.