How to Keep Your Inventions and Ideas Safe from Theft Until You Get a Patent
The decision of whether or not to pursue a patent is not always an easy one. There are many reasons why inventors may choose to sit on their idea and ultimately delay working with a patent lawyer to protect their intellectual property. But as an inventor, you may wonder how to keep your inventions and ideas safe.
For example, an inventor may still be doing their homework to determine if the solution they’ve discovered is really patentable. And, if it is, will it be a patent of value that can justify the time and expense that the inventor will need to put up to get the patent approved? For other inventors, coming up with the money to hire an attorney and move through the patent process is an issue. They may want to talk to other parties to pitch the idea of “buying” or “licensing” the idea instead so they can cash out fast without incurring the majority of the costs.
In all of these cases, the inventor may need to share information about their ideas and inventions in order to uncover the answers they are looking for. This is where the problem lies. In talking to others, the inventor risks disclosing too much information to the point that their invention isn’t patentable anymore or that the ideas can be stolen and leveraged by the person and/or company that the ideas are being privately shared with.
It’s important for inventors to know how to keep their inventions and ideas safe and how to protect themselves from the possibility that they could lose their rights by making their invention public knowledge or by empowering someone else to run off with their ideas in order to file first with the Patent Office. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to protect yourself when disclosing information regarding your trade secrets, ideas, and inventions if you know how to keep your inventions and ideas safe. The top three are as follows:
- File for a Provisional Patent. If you believe your invention has a real chance of qualifying for a patent, a great way to protect yourself is to file a provisional patent application with the USTPO. This will provide you with “patent pending” status, afford you with “a “filing date” to show that you had this idea before others, and buy you time before you have to move forward with an “official” patent application.
- Use a Non-Disclosure Agreement– If it’s not clear that your idea or invention would qualify for a patent, you can ask the party you are sharing your ideas with to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). If the other party agrees to sign your agreement and later steals your idea/invention, you would be able to sue for damages in court. Consider hiring a lawyer to draft your NDA to ensure it’s airtight and doesn’t allow for any wiggle-room or breaches from people with ill intentions.
- Confide in a lawyer from the start– A lot of people wait to contact a patent lawyer because they fear that they, too, can steal their ideas. However, patent lawyers are bound by ethics and professional responsibility requirements. Stealing an idea would be a serious breach of duty for a lawyer that can expose him or her to punishments from the bar, and the original inventor would likely be able to sue for theft. Sharing your ideas with a qualified patent lawyer is a safe prospect, and he or she can help answer some of the questions you may have without having to disclose information to a third-party.
When it comes to protecting your work, you need to know how to keep your inventions and ideas safe, and you want to feel comfortable and confident getting the information you need to move forward in a profitable and legally secure way. Utilizing the above strategies can help you keep your secrets safe while you are in the research and “due diligence” phase. If you have further questions on how to prevent your inventions from being stolen while you are researching or pitching your ideas, feel free to contact the patent lawyers at Thompson Patent Law at (512) 649-1046 to schedule a consultation.