Public Disclosures of Potentially Novel Ideas

Inventors must pay special attention to the rules regarding public disclosure. Public disclosure is the practice of one of the following: filing a provisionary patent application, publishing papers in conferences, defending theses in open sessions, discussing ideas in departmental meetings, submitting abstracts of grant proposals to funding agencies, describing ideas in web pages, and others. If there has been no public disclosure of the patentable ideas before filing a U.S. patent, then the inventor has one year to file patent applications for protecting the same ideas in foreign countries. However, if a public disclosure has been made prior to filing a U.S. patent, then the inventor can only file foreign applications to protect the same ideas within one year of the public disclosure. It is thus very important to not disclose potentially patentable ideas to anyone.

Documentation and Inventorship

There are strict rules for establishing the concept of the patentable idea. It is generally recommended that bound notebooks with continuously numbered pages are used to document the novel ideas conceived, the date of idea conception, and the names of the inventors involved. This page must be signed by all inventors and cosigned by a witness, in order to be legally acceptable.

Whether or not all the inventors who sign such pages are a part of the eventual inventorship of a patent depends ultimately on the claims the patent contains. Inventors whose ideas form the basis of at least one of the claims in the patent are co-inventors. All coinventors have the same rights to make use of a granted patent (e.g., selling, enforcing, offering license, creating joint ventures, and signing codevelopment contracts), without the consent of the remainder co-inventors, unless the rights issue is clarified and agreed on by all co-inventors before the patent applications.

Safeguard Against the Loss of Intellectual Properties

One frequently encountered problem when marketing novel products/services to emerging economy countries is how to effectively prevent the loss of the intellectual properties. Many companies are known to achieve some success by applying the following tactics:

  • 1. When exporting hardware that requires the use of software, choose to have the hardware designed and manufactured in one country and the software in another.
  • 2. Sell and market the product/service of an older version, and not the most innovative ones.
  • 3. Screen all employees based on ethics.
  • 4. Require all company employees by contract not to work for competitors within three years of leaving the company.
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