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Invention without a patent, what happens if someone steals it?? Answered

Ok, I've got a really cool invention. My oldest boy came up with the idea like 6 years ago. I can't afford to patent it. If I used the idea in an instructable, would the date on the ible help prove that the idea was ours? (Or would it just prove how stupid I am by letting the "cat out of the bag"?) I don't mind other people making their own, that's what Ibles are about. I just don't want someone to run patent it, and then commercialize it unfairly.

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KentsOkay
KentsOkay

11 years ago

My grandad says you can file without a lawyer, I was starting down the road of patenting an aroma-alarm clock when I found one already...

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pmillho
pmillho

Reply 5 months ago

Anybody can file a patent. The patent attorney just has much more experience and will use appropriate legal terminology and make the claims stronger.

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ewilhelm
ewilhelm

11 years ago

When you publish and idea on a public forum, you still have a year to patent the idea in the US. My advice is to always share your ideas because you are more likely to get useful feedback and opportunities than if you keep everything secret.

I've written about this a couple of times:
https://www.instructables.com/community/Davison-and-being-an-inventor/
https://www.instructables.com/community/Open-source-Hardware-License---creative-commons-li/
https://www.instructables.com/community/The-Copyright-FAQ-for-Knitters/

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pmillho
pmillho

Reply 5 months ago

What do you mean you have a year?

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skunkbait
skunkbait

Reply 11 years ago

Eric, thanks for your thoughts on this. It's a great idea (in it's context), and I hate for it not to get some exposure.

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pmillho
pmillho

5 months ago

No. Fairly recently they have changed the laws regarding the patenting process. If several people claim to have the same idea, in the past the person that demonstrates documented proof that they had the idea first would be granted the patent (in which case the "ible" date would count). Now the laws have changed. Prior dates no longer matter. It's first to file. He who first files for a patent gets the prior art date. I believe the only date that matters now is your filing date.

However you can file for a provisional patent which is much cheaper and gives you a year to develop and monetize your idea before formally filing for a non-provisional patent. A provisional is essentially a "quick and dirty" cheap way to establish a filing date that carries through to the non-provisional patent before the idea is fully developed.

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AmyInNH
AmyInNH

5 years ago

Ideas/products/processes in a public forum can't be patented. So if someone came after you, you'd have to show the idea was already public before their patent was applied for, and therefore shouldn't have been granted a patent.

Patenting reserves your right to solely produce it commercially for x number of years, given you maintain the patent for the full measure of years (3 payments over 20 years). Cat out of the bag only applies if you wanted to reserve the idea for solely your commercial use. Once unpatented and public, anyone can use it, including using it for commercial purposes.

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AnarchistAsian
AnarchistAsian

11 years ago

you could... just change the license and post it! do what eric says let the EVIL MEGA CORPORATION take the idea... at least you can have the pride in knowing that your own son came up with such a great idea that others became jealous... plus, you can have your own anyways...

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Kiteman
Kiteman

11 years ago

If the invention is that good, a patent would be a good idea. OK, it's hundreds of dollars, but compare that to any potential profit over the life-time of the product.

Personally, I would see if the US Patent Office could offer advice, or point you towards a lawyer who could help.

Even a "normal" lawyer could give you some advice. Maybe they could draft a non-disclosure agreement so that you could safely show your idea to potential manufacturers, and then you could enter into an agreement with a suitable manufacturer, although you may have to give up some of the rights to your idea.

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skunkbait
skunkbait

Reply 11 years ago

Yep, I was thinking it was more like several THOUSAND. I've used the non-disclosure statement before (effectively), but.... I may try to approach the patent office. If I could get it for less than $1000, I can come up with that. But if I have to pay a lawyer several thousand, I'd starve before the returns seeped in.

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killerjackalope
killerjackalope

Reply 11 years ago

If you have a friend who's a lawyer or even a decent relationship with your lawyer then you might be able to get a drafted up NDA in return for promising to sue them if your children commit crimes...

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killerjackalope
killerjackalope

Reply 11 years ago

You may wish to make sure they don't commit crimes and get caught, otherwise you may still starve...

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AnarchistAsian
AnarchistAsian

Reply 11 years ago

well THE MAN won't find out if they're out in the woods...

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Ian M
Ian M

11 years ago

I don't quite understand the requirement that people don't "commercialize it unfairly," but if you publish it, nobody else can claim a patent for it. On the other hand that won't stop them from manufacturing or selling it if you haven't patented it. Personally, I would recommend not patenting it, just because it's a hassle and I don't think it's worthwhile to stop people from commercializing an idea. Unless you're going to commercialize the idea, then go for it.

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skunkbait
skunkbait

Reply 11 years ago

Well, I could capitalize on it later. It's really not an everyday item. It's got hunting, military and law enforcement applications. There would be only limited applications for your everyday do-it-yourselfer.

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gimmelotsarobots
gimmelotsarobots

11 years ago

Start saving for a patent, but there is a minimal hold type thing to help. It's called first use rights. This proves the idea was yours but doesn't quite protect it. There is still a fee, but it is much less than a patent.

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westfw
westfw

11 years ago

If I used the idea in an instructable, would the date on the ible help prove that the idea was ours?
Yes. At least in theory. "Publishing" an invention's details should prevent someone else from patenting it or otherwise "stealing" it. The "in theory" part comes because I'm not sure that it has been legally established that putting something on a web site is equivalent to publishing it, and because in the end the "your-ness" of an invention only goes as far as you're able to defend your invention in court (which would be "not very", if you can't afford the patent in the first place.)

I have mixed feelings. I think it's relatively unlikely for someone to steal your invention from a published source like instructables; if they're really wanting to sell your invention, it's probably cheaper to make a deal with you than to risk later court battles. And I'm not fond of people who get patents and then sit on them waiting to charge other people money...

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 11 years ago

The problem would be proof - there have been many cases where small inventors have had ideas stolen because they have been unable to prove that the thieves produced "their" (probably slightly different) idea after seeing the inventor's idea.

A well-worded patent, though, would cover not just the exact idea, but any reasonable variations thereof.

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westfw
westfw

Reply 11 years ago

Ah. AFAIK, a patent is the only thing that prevents someone else from having the same basic idea that you had, and doing it slightly better, slightly different, and making a lot more money from it than you did. Even for major inventions like Radio and the Airplane, there was a lot of parallel development and working devices appeared several places (nearly) at once. This is probably one of the basic flaws of the current patent system; you're not supposed to be able to get a patent for something that is "obvious to someone versed in the field", but that's rather tricky to define, and patents are regularly issued for stuff that high-school students re-invent on their own...

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skunkbait
skunkbait

Reply 11 years ago

That's funny. I "re-invented" the Martingale gambling system. I sold the concept for a large sum. Then it was pointed out to me that it was already done. I gave the money back. BTW- I'm not a fan of gambling, but I do have a slight obsession with numerical systems.

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Tool Using Animal
Tool Using Animal

Reply 11 years ago

But is not the only protection a patent really offers is the "right to sue"? A small entity would be bankrupted trying to sue a corporation regardless of patent. Perhaps the best route would be a provisional patent and spend that 12 month period finding an investor.

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Weissensteinburg
Weissensteinburg

Reply 11 years ago

Things like LED Throwies are now made commercially...It's not as much of a patentable idea or anything, but i'm willing to bet they got the idea from the internet.

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Lithium Rain
Lithium Rain

11 years ago

Reserve all the rights to it by changing the license.

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guyfrom7up
guyfrom7up

11 years ago

I'm not sure, but when you publish it you can use a non-commercial publish license or something like that