You want your company to get noticed. You want to promote your ideas. But keep in mind, what you post, whether it be on your website, social media, or chat sites, and what you speak about at meetings, all of it creates a public record. And depending where you are in the process of protecting your ideas and inventions, these public disclosures can come back to haunt you.
Disclosures out in the public count as prior art. If the inventor places them in the public, then there is a 1 year clock ticking. From the time of the publication, the inventor has 1 year to file a patent. If that year goes by, the public disclosure can act as an absolute bar – i.e. sorry – no patent allowed. This one year grace period is not available for all worldwide patent filings. The timing and applicability vary by country.
While not all uses are “public” from a legal point of view, here are some things to consider.
How the invention might be disclosed by you:
- Discussions with friends and colleagues
- Publishing your work in a scientific journal
- Presentation of talk or poster at a conference
- Blogging about your product or service
- Your website
- Demonstrations of the product (in person or on the web)
- Providing your product to others to try it out
- Describing your product features to others to test market fit
- Soft launch
Keep in mind that it is not just you that might publicize the invention. Take for example a new medical treatment. If specific confidentiality restrictions are not in place, researchers and even patients in the trial could disclose the invention to the public. Similarly, for digital health apps that you test or even describe to potential customers, do you have any restrictions in place to prevent them from describing the app and passing along their experiences to others?
Here are a few examples of how disclosure of your invention by others may occur:
- Facebook, Twitter and other social media posts from participants in product trials and market research
- Patient chat sites
- Presentations and publications by collaborators and others involved in the development of the product
Having a strategy to sync your publication and marketing plans with your patent filing strategy can help manage these potential issues. Give some thought to who might reveal your invention to the world outside of the company. Can you place confidentiality restrictions on these folks and do you want to? In some cases, you may not be able to restrict communications, such as between patients and their healthcare providers (including those outside of the clinical trial setting).
Also, consider what will be provided in the publication or marketing research. Will you be providing a version of the product or the use of a service or platform? What level of detail will be revealed about the product features and its inner workings? In some cases, it will be possible and appropriate to file a patent application prior to the public disclosure. In other situations, you may be able to more carefully control the information released without revealing the “secret sauce.”
Forethought and strategy on these points can help you strike an effective balance between public recognition and protection of your innovations.