If you are still in the product development phase, you will want to be careful about how much information you share in public venues because it can impact your ability to patent your product later.
If you display your prototype at a trade show or discuss it at length in a blog, it is considered public disclosure. If the disclosure occurs more than a year before you file for a patent, it could prevent you from obtaining that patent. In the United States, inventors are allowed a one-year grace period between public disclosure and patent filing, but most other countries don’t offer that buffer.
A business owner quoted in Forbes said he discovered this lesson too late:
“When we first started our business, we didn’t think about getting protection because our idea was untested and unproven as a marketable product. We wanted to prove that it was a good idea before we invested in protection…Years later after finally proving the market, we find out that we’ve missed the deadline for filing a new idea. Now we’ve had a costly redesign effort to be able to finally protect our idea.”
Although you are protected in the United States by the one-year grace period, the University of Wisconsin research department offers this caution,
“The time window between an inventor’s public disclosure and patent application filing date allows others to publish similar work or work that builds off your own work. These intervening publications may prevent or hinder patentability of your invention.”
There are options for helping to ensure that your intellectual property is protected, including non-disclosure agreements. We will discuss those in more detail in a future post. In the meantime, it is always wise to consult with a business attorney who is familiar with intellectual property issues prior to going public with any information that could negatively impact your ability to register or market your new product.
If you are a start-up or emerging business owner in need of small business legal advice, including intellectual property guidance, contact EmergeCounsel today.