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How Do I Put an Invention Into the Public Domain? 233

Posted by Soulskill
from the co2-powered-self-replicating-gravity-detector dept.
Nefarious Wheel writes "I have a couple of inventions — mechanical devices, based on physical principles — that I believe could transform certain aspects of industry. The trouble is, I can't afford to file patents, and even if I could, I'm not sure that would be the best way for these devices to be made available as widely as I'd like. Is there some way to publish the details of these innovations in the public domain in such a way as to protect them from being snaffled away by some patent troll? I'd be happy with a contribution (or simple attribution) model for recompense, which could be zero to whatever, but that's not as important to me as getting the ideas out there for anyone who wants to use them. This isn't copyright, and I know of no patent equivalent to Creative Commons. In short, what's the best way to protect an invention against someone filing a patent on it, short of patenting the device yourself? Can this be done?"
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How Do I Put an Invention Into the Public Domain?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 04, 2009 @10:49AM (#27457469)
    You some kind of commie?
  • by nweaver (113078) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @10:50AM (#27457475) Homepage

    Once something is published, it becomes "prior art" and someone else can't patent prior art and obvious extensions to prior art.

    And also once you publish it, you can't file for a patent on it outside the US, and you can only file for a US patent within a year.

    • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Saturday April 04, 2009 @10:54AM (#27457503) Homepage Journal
      But patent examiners aren't likely to find such published prior art unless you publish it in something that patent examiners actually read. Google defensive publication [google.com] brought me a Wikipedia article explaining the concept [wikipedia.org] and a short guide [securinginnovation.com].
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:51AM (#27457911)

        Well, that's the discussion wrapped up nice and neat in just two comments. Well done Slashdot!

      • by Vadim Makarov (529622) <makarov@vad1.com> on Saturday April 04, 2009 @12:01PM (#27457999) Homepage

        I once encountered a U.S. patent application filled in 2005 whose idea was described in a research article published in 2001. I tried to report it to the patent examiner.

        First, I looked around for a "report prior art" button on the application page. None.

        Second, I looked for USPTO's email. I don't remember if I found one, it was years ago, but I do remember that an attempt at reporting prior art via email was not successful. Probably I got a reply saying they don't take tips via email, I don't recall clearly.

        Third, I took the trouble of calling USPTO (international call, not cheap), waiting in the queue a quarter hour, and inquiring where do I send a copy of that research article. It turned out, I have to snail mail it and clearly identify the sender on the mail. At this point a question arose if the submission would be anonymous. I knew one of the patent fillers and did not want to worsen relations with him. If I sent a letter with a faked sender from my current city and country and he saw it, he could still identify me. To ensure anonymity, I'd have to mail it to another country and ask someone to re-mail it to the USPTO for me. At this point, I gave up.

        • Another way to go about this is to forward the piece of prior art to the attorney and/or the applicant. They are required by law to disclose things they know about that are material to patentability (see 37 CFR 1.56 [uspto.gov]). Failure to fulfill the duty to disclose can be grounds for invalidation of a patent. If you send it through some form of return-receipt mail (in the US, this would be Certified Mail) to prove that the item was sent, then if the patent issues anyway and gets litigated, you could contact the

        • WikiPatents (Score:2, Interesting)

          by kostmo (1136101)
          http://www.wikipatents.com/ [wikipatents.com] may be a good place to post the prior art. It is a site for "community patent review".
      • by foniksonik (573572) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @12:16PM (#27458081) Homepage Journal

        How about just publishing to Wikipedia? Seems like a place that a patent examiner might look when investigating prior art. Especially if someone also publishes an article on how Wikipedia is being used to publish "public domain" prior art and then adds a reference to examples which could turn into a big list of inventions...

        If your patent uses a basic concept add a cross link to that article as well so that it's more likely to show up in a search on said concept and of course cross link to prior art to your own invention as well.

        • by Z00L00K (682162) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @12:38PM (#27458235) Homepage

          That seems to be an interesting concept.

          Just make sure that you have a reference site to point to for the Wikipedia entry.

          Add some usenet postings too just for the sake of it. But I suspect that very few today does read usenet, so it may be better to put a reference in your sig here at Slashdot and then comment articles like a maniac for a while.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by klenwell (960296)

            What about Google's Knol? Wikipedia specifically prohibits original research. Knol welcomes it. You could also start an article on the broader subject of prior art and invite people to contribute to that.

            You need a Google account, but that would insure attribution. And you can even see how many people have viewed it.

            It also gives the idea a fixed url or permalink which could be the starting point for wider circulation.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Asic Eng (193332)
          I think he should present at a reputable conference in his field. Not sure if Wikipedia is a good place for publishing original research - I was under the impression that's not the content they want. Also - if he publishes on such a conference the knowledge will be distributed to those able to make use of it, and it will increase his reputation - allowing him to become known, to add the publication to his resume etc.
        • by Teancum (67324)

          Publishing on Wikipedia is original research (especially if it is something novel or original). That is grounds for immediate deletion on Wikipedia, so while it might get "published", it isn't a good place to do that.

          On the whole I support the concept of original research being banned on Wikipedia (and most of the other Wikimedia sister projects... Wikiversity is a narrow exception) as it keeps the kooks off of the site and treats it as a serious compendium of human knowledge. It is most often used to cul

      • At $110 to file for a small entity, a provisional patent only costs a little bit. If you can't afford it and these are potentially useful medical devices, just go to a patient who would have benefited from it and ask for a little help, or go to a good doctor or med student and offer to let him or her write up the journal article *After* you file the provisional patent application. For that matter, I'm sure you can get five hundred or a thousand bucks from an undergrad in the sciences for the chance to wri

        • Good idea but wrong (Score:3, Informative)

          by Theaetetus (590071)

          At $110 to file for a small entity, a provisional patent only costs a little bit.

          I appreciate the direction you're going with this, but it won't work. Provisional patent applications are not published, and won't count as prior art.

          Patent applications are published at 18 months from earliest filing date, if they're still pending. Provisionals expire in one year from filing date if they're not converted to nonprovisional, so they're not pending at the 18 month point.

          Disclaimer: I am a patent agent, but I'm not your patent agent. Any observations I make are most likely correct, but are n

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Z00L00K (682162)

        If Robert Anson Heinlein [wikipedia.org] still was alive you could have asked him since he did put the concept of the water bed [opinionjournal.com] into public domain.

        Anyway that was described back in 1934 and the publication of it in three of his books was enough to consider it prior art.

        So even a limited spread of the data has to be considered prior art.

        I suspect that if you read enough Science Fiction books you will be able to invalidate a huge amount of patents. Things may not be named the same, but they may be described sufficiently to w

        • Anyway [a well-known fiction author described a water-filled bed] back in 1934

          Not everybody is a well-known author.

          and the publication of it in three of his books was enough to consider it prior art.

          The point is to stop the examiner from even approving the patent, not to show prior art after the fact and run up a bill with the USPTO. So unless you know which SF author's books your particular examiner reads for pleasure, and that author takes suggestions for plot points (like a dispute over who gets to sleep on a waterbed), I don't see how defensive publication in a novel can be practical.

          I suspect that if you read enough Science Fiction books you will be able to invalidate a huge amount of patents.

          Just reading SF doesn't pay the USPTO's fee for reexamining a patent.

    • Once something is published, it becomes "prior art" and someone else can't patent prior art and obvious extensions to prior art.

      And also once you publish it, you can't file for a patent on it outside the US, and you can only file for a US patent within a year.

      While in theory this is technically true, the reality of it is that filing a patent... even if you never intend to collect royalties or even sue somebody for patent infringement if you discover it in the future... is still the most viable option.

      One situation I had with a former employer was an expired patent application that hung in our engineering conference room for years.... where the company was sued by a patent troll who had filed a nearly identical patent application for the very same concept and was claiming prior art. In that case, the troll was hosed (legally speaking) because prior art was clearly established and certified by the USPTO... showing that the patent was clearly invalid and forcing the judge to dismiss the case. The patent attorney hadn't even listed this prior patent as a disclaimer of prior art when a simple search of the patent database would have turned it up.

      The company I worked for would have been taken to the cleaners if it wasn't for that patent which had been filed by an earlier employee. Yeah, it was fun to see first hand how valuable defensive patents could be... and it was even funnier to see that plaque temporarily be taken down as it was presented in court as prior art. Yeah, that step wasn't strictly necessary, but it made an impression on the judge as well that proved to be quite positive.

      In this case, you need to use the patent system against itself just as the GPL uses the copyright system against itself. The patent system respects itself, but it doesn't think stuff created out of this environment is worth much.... witness some of the idiotic patents that have been filed such as one about ROT-13, one-click shopping, and the LZW algorithm. While all of these had clear prior-art in published journals (like ACM publications), that hasn't been sufficient to prove prior art in a legal sense, unfortunately, and patents were not only granted but enforced.

      And no, I don't love the patent system (I wish it were completely abolished), but it is an unfortunate evil in today's engineering environment. I have yet to meet a single individual that I know personally or have been able to shake their hand who has made a single penny off of a patent, yet I know dozens of individuals who have had them granted and have even developed patent-worthy concepts of my own.

      • by DamnStupidElf (649844) <Fingolfin@linuxmail.org> on Saturday April 04, 2009 @12:07PM (#27458025)

        Additionally, the OP is going to *look* like a patent troll if he doesn't actually have a patent application in hand along with a free, non revocable license for it. Remember RAMBUS? They pushed their invention for everyone to use as an "open" standard, claiming it would be a great idea, and only afterward started hitting everyone up for money with their submarine patent.

        Not patenting the original invention will also make it much easier for the first company who researches a cost effective implementation to obtain an over-broad patent on their method and process, which will practically cover the whole invention since there are no prior patents.

      • by flooey (695860)

        And no, I don't love the patent system (I wish it were completely abolished), but it is an unfortunate evil in today's engineering environment. I have yet to meet a single individual that I know personally or have been able to shake their hand who has made a single penny off of a patent, yet I know dozens of individuals who have had them granted and have even developed patent-worthy concepts of my own.

        There are some industries in which the patent system works like it's supposed to. My dad was a chemist until he retired, and he generated a number of patents which have been really valuable to him and the company he worked for. It costs a lot of time and money to come up with chemicals that do interesting things, and patents makes it so that doing so is profitable.

      • have even developed patent-worthy concepts of my own.

        That's false by definition.

    • by capnkr (1153623) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:35AM (#27457803)

      And also once you publish it, you can't file for a patent on it outside the US, and you can only file for a US patent within a year.

      Regarding "publishing": just to point out that the word publish in this context means:

      "1 a: to make generally known b: to make public announcement of" (link) [merriam-webster.com]

      not necessarily to produce something in the printed form.

      So, once your idea gets into the public domain at all (regardless of any non-compete/non-disclosure agreements, even), that starts the patent-process clock ticking. Show it to a friend, and you have begun...

      As nweaver notes, you'll have one year to begin filing for the patent process thru the USPTO, or you'll lose your patent rights.

      Full public disclosure, and most importantly, a way to prove when that took place will establish prior art for anyone who would like to contest a patent application filed after that date.

      No, IANAPL, but I have paid money to them for the understanding I have passed along here. ;)

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by VernoWhitney (514284)

        So, once your idea gets into the public domain at all (regardless of any non-compete/non-disclosure agreements, even), that starts the patent-process clock ticking. Show it to a friend, and you have begun...

        Not quite. You need to get it where it would be reasonably accessible by a member of the public were they to be interested, so non-disclosure agreements (or even an implicit understanding of limited distribution, but that's a little murkier) prevent it from being prior art.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mysidia (191772)

      Exactly, so publish the invention in detail in as many places as possible, the internet, etc, so that it is easy to prove that it is a published prior work.

      If your invention is used successfully by someone, get in touch with industry publications, and see if they can pick up an article. The more places your invention is described in, the more clear it would be that a patent application for it is fraudulent.

      Plus, you need publications, whether online or offline, in order for people in the industry to l

  • Wouldn't your invention constitute prior art in the event of someone patenting after you, thereby nullifying any patent?
  • by Steve1952 (651150) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @10:50AM (#27457479)
    You can put an invention into the public domain by simply publishing it and then failing to file a patent on it. The main thing here is to find a low cost forum that will preserve your publication for a long time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TooManyNames (711346)

      This would be the best way to go. Once you've published your work (assuming that your work doesn't infringe on other existing patents) it will be in the public domain and should constitute prior art. If someone were able to obtain a patent on your published work (the patent office can't check everything) it would be easy to overturn simply by pointing to whichever journal contains your paper. Moreover, the US gives you up to 1 year after the date that you publish if you (the inventor) later decide to fil

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Teancum (67324)

        This would be the best way to go. Once you've published your work (assuming that your work doesn't infringe on other existing patents) it will be in the public domain and should constitute prior art. If someone were able to obtain a patent on your published work (the patent office can't check everything) it would be easy to overturn simply by pointing to whichever journal contains your paper.

        This is easier said than done. While this is a legitimate method of trying to protect yourself by publishing a concept on a blog or something else that is clearly available in the public domain, it still won't protect you from hard-core patent trolls.

        I wouldn't claim this as the "best way to go", but it clearly is a much cheaper option than the better way, which is to simply file a defensive patent. Once your idea is in the patent system, you are under some sort of protection... and once you have been gra

    • The problem is that the USPTO doesn't care about such places and isn't going to seek them out while examining someone else's patent application. So Snipey McPatent Troll ends up with a patent, and then goes about making people's lives miserable. You doing something about it requires going to court with your forum printout or whatever and pitting it against their real live patent.

      As others have said in this thread, they'll even ignore respected well-established research journals. So merely publishing anywher

  • simple (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 04, 2009 @10:53AM (#27457497)

    Send me all the plans, complete details, drawings, and figures. I'll file everything for you and everyone will be happy.

    Honest. Really.

    The check's in the mail.....

  • by homer_s (799572) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @10:53AM (#27457501)
    mechanical devices, based on physical principles

    Here [thinkgeek.com] is the invention.
  • Letter bomb campaign (Score:5, Interesting)

    by darpo (5213) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @10:56AM (#27457517) Homepage
    You could write an open letter to the major companies in the relevant industry (and make it clear that several companies are receiving the letter) explaining your inventions. One company may still try to patent them, but the other companies will have signed, dated, and carbon-copied letters from you stating prior art. Hmm, too far fetched?
    • by kinnell (607819) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:57AM (#27457969)
      Prior art requires that the invention be in the public domain, not simply "thought of first". This means it has to be actually published to the general public. You and I could make the same invention independently, and try and patent it, and the one to get the patent would be the first to apply, regardless of who actually made the invention first. IANAL, but I believe that in your scenario, any one of the companies would be perfectly entitled to patent the invention.
      • by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @01:50PM (#27458853)

        The US is a first-to-invent country (the only one in the world, actually). In the US, if two pending applications claim the same stuff, an interference proceeding is held to determine who reduced the invention to practice first and/or who had a complete conception of the entire claimed invention first combined with due diligence thereafter in reducing the invention to practice.

        If you invent something without filing for a patent on it, and then I invent it independently but I do patent it, then if I sue you for infringement, your defense could be that you were using the invention in the US more than a year before my filing date, or (as a more difficult approach) you could prove that I didn't actually invent it first.

    • You could write an open letter to the major companies in the relevant industry (and make it clear that several companies are receiving the letter) explaining your inventions.

      At my former company, your letters would have been received by a third party we hired to handle customer service. I think we had them send back a form letter asking you to take out a patent, or give up all rights to your invention by signing a waiver, before we'd even read your letter. Either way, we wanted to know where we stood with

  • by pnumoman (1348217) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @10:57AM (#27457529)

    While publishing it, and making it prior art would be nice, the only way for you to totally place it into the public domain would be for you to patent it yourself.

    Sure, in a technical sense making it prior art would bar others from patenting it, effectively placing it into the public domain. However, in reality, people could still apply to patent the invention, and the burden would be on them to notify the patent examiner about your prior art.

    Guess how much that will happen.

    So, assuming they don't talk about your publication, and the examiner doesn't know, they get a patent. Once that happens, then it's up to an enterprising soul to file an appeal with the patent board... and sure, the patent would probably be revoked, but it would take time and money. During this time, people would be afraid to use the patent, etc etc.

    Since a patent is a right to exclude others from using your invention, the easiest way would be to talk to your local law school, see if there's any sort of IP clinic, and ask them to help you file the patent. They will probably have someone student that has passed the patent bar early, and can help you file as a patent agent. Then you would just pay the fee, get the patent filed for you, and some law student would get some nice experience. After you get the patent, simply let people use it for free.

  • by ZosX (517789) <zosxavius AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday April 04, 2009 @10:58AM (#27457535) Homepage

    All you need to do is publish your designs somewhere. Who knows maybe people may offer suggestions that will improve them. Open sourcing hardware is certainly something that has been done before. As long as you don't care if companies potentially exploit your ideas and not compensate you then by all means go ahead and make the world a better place. I admit I am mildly disappointed that you did not even share any details at all. Maybe your invention is really cool and now we may never know.

    • You may see it here. I'm liking the idea of public disclosure here, Wikipatents, and BoingBoing. That is, if Cory and CmdrTaco don't life-ban me for opening this particular container of flexible, segmented invertibrates. Will finish reading the thread first.
  • Establishes the prior art, allows to the idea to benefit the public, and you can still receive compensation.
  • by memorycardfull (1187485) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:02AM (#27457563)
    You might discover that the answer is as simple as a handsome public domain patent cleverly constructed out of old paperback books.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:02AM (#27457565)

    File a statutory invention registration with the patent office.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Statutory_Invention_Registration [wikipedia.org]

    Alternately, you can file a provisional patent application, and then just abandon it by not filing anything else for a year.

    Either of these will become part of the patent office's database and thus will be searched by patent examiners.

    • by Teancum (67324)

      File a statutory invention registration with the patent office.

      I wish I hadn't posted earlier, as this comment deserves to be moded up. IMHO the best idea posted yet and one that actually fits the requirements of what is being asked.

      Kudos.... and it is unfortunate this is an AC post.

    • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @12:47PM (#27458307) Journal
      Filing a Statutory Invention registration costs $920, with no discount for small entity. It's much cheaper to file an application and abandon it. Filing costs $330 or $165 for small entity (you are almost certainly a small entity). The filing fee can be higher if your application has a rather large number of claims or a complicated claim dependency structure. Here is the current fee schedule at the US PTO: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/qs/ope/fee2009january01_2009jan12.htm [uspto.gov]

      Either way, you must conform to the required format for the filing. Special attention must be given to drawings, so that labels and textual descriptions in drawings match the associated descriptions in the text specification (and all drawings must have descriptions). Drawings may NOT be in colour, or employ shading to distinguish areas - only cross-hatching or other fill patterns are allowed. The application must be accompanied by copies of any references or prior art cited. This is to ensure that your disclosure will be interpreted in the correct way later, even if you abandon it. Before it is printed, there may be requests for formal changes.

      I recommend you become familiar with the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/index.htm [uspto.gov]
    • Actually if you don't file another patent referencing the provisional patent within a year, the patent office will discard the provisional patent. So this won't show up in their searches.
  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:02AM (#27457571)
    Once they read about your invention, they would be legally obliged to disclose it to the patent office as prior art. So legally, they can't read it and then patent it. However since we are talking about patent trolls here, they can read it, write a patent application, don't tell the patent office about the prior art, forge papers demonstrating that they had the idea before you published it, and sue someone including yourself for the invention, and act very astonished if you show the prior art. Even with the prior art in someone's hands, it could cost them lots of money to defend against the case, even when they win. And whoever is sued might not know the prior art.

    You could ask at the patent office, or someone here might know, how much it costs to _attempt_ to get a patent. In your situation, you don't need a patent. A failed patent application is good enough for you, because then it is prior art that is know to the patent office.
    • would illiteracy be an asset for a would-be patent troll?

    • Greetings all, First off, this is my first post to /. so please bear with me. Also, IANAL; your mileage may vary! When I researched some ideas I had at a patent depository library, I was depressingly amazed by how many clever ideas I had, that others had already had (sometimes long before), and this was primarily US prior art. There are lots of clever, industrious folks in other countries, too. For the past ~30 years, the US patent office has been underfunded, and in consequence, the USPTO often does
      • Since one of your goals is to prevent others from patenting, then the "publication" that would really count is to convey your ideas to the patent office (in whatever country/ies) you want to prevent patenting. As a previous poster points out, even if your patent application is unsuccessful, it will be in those patent offices' databases, with an established date.

        One caveat. Provisional patent applications are neither published nor searched. If you don't convert to a nonprovisional patent application, they are discarded and will never be able to be used as prior art.

    • As mentioned above, putting the invention in the Statutory Invention Registry is a low-cost way to publish the invention such that it will be covered in a standard USPTO search. While a patent applicant is required to divulge references to prior art that he knows about, there is no reason to expect every patent applicant to know the entire scope of the prior art... that's why every patent application includes a search fee where the USPTO conducts its own searches too!

  • by Jasper__unique_dammi (901401) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:15AM (#27457661)
    The idea is simple; invent something, patent it, and allow no-one to use it until someone pays the fee, but once it is payed, everyone can use it.
  • by pem (1013437) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:16AM (#27457669)
    You could spend $75.00 filing a "provisional patent application" with all the relevant information.

    Even though you don't plan on turning this into a real patent application, it will establish a baseline date AT THE PATENT OFFICE for your invention. Someone else would have to prove that they invented before that date.

    You will certainly want to publicize it widely, for it to count as prior art, but having an official date from the patent office itself couldn't hurt.

    • This!

      There is a huge misconception that patents are hugely expensive. The actual fees are relatively low for the initial filings and many are half price for small entities such as single inventors.

      What is expensive is lawyers fees. But you don't necessarily need a lawyer, though many patent agents will offer no or low fee initial consultations or give your application a read through for a minimal amount. There are plenty of good books out there that can guide you through the process of making a provisional

    • You could spend $75.00 filing a "provisional patent application" with all the relevant information.

      Even though you don't plan on turning this into a real patent application, it will establish a baseline date AT THE PATENT OFFICE for your invention. Someone else would have to prove that they invented before that date.

      You will certainly want to publicize it widely, for it to count as prior art, but having an official date from the patent office itself couldn't hurt.

      ... except that provisional patent applications that aren't converted to nonprovisionals are discarded at 12 months and are never published. They do not become prior art unless the individual Examiner happens to remember it, but even then he or she'd have a tough time making a prima facie case without any evidence.

  • Post a link here (Score:2, Insightful)

    by taskiss (94652)

    Put the drawings or whatever on a web page and link to it here. Not only will it get exposure, it'll generate discussion on the merits of the design.

    As an aside, this reminds me of the crap article posted here not too long ago, with the only difference being that guy didn't want to share his great and wonderful idea.

  • Research disclosure (Score:5, Informative)

    by An dochasac (591582) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:23AM (#27457719)
    I've used Research Disclosure [researchdisclosure.com] publications which I'm pretty sure U.S. patent applicants are required to look through in their search for prior art.
  • When getting started developing something usually the first thing people do is run a patent search to see if the idea is unencumbered enough even bother with. If you've got a patent sitting there most engineers are going to stop in their tracks, whatever your actual feelings about licensing it are. In my experience with engineers who are actually doing the development your patent will scare them away and chances are that your idea will languish until the patent period expires. Maybe if you can somehow fit i

  • First To Publish (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AvitarX (172628)

    In the US we are a first to Publish country.

    Make sure it is published, and easily findable.

    Keep all of your notes with dates, this can go to demonstrate you had the idea before the publication date (evidence, not proof obviously).

    By keeping it a secret you are guaranteeing others may patent it, such as what happened when the British government kept RSA a secret.

    Since patents are still theoretically to spread, not hid knowledge, the system does not recognize secret knowledge unless theft of ideas can be demo

  • Contact your local university, ask them if it would be possible to file a technical report with a departmental archive... that's what all university departments do when submitting papers; submit the research as a technical report, then send it off for consideration for publication. Even if the paper is turned down, you still have the technical report filing.

  • What with Google and the Internet Archive that must consitute "publishing" your invention.

    However in the, let's just say really "interesting" US patent system, I believe that someone else can read your invention online and patent it themselves within a year,

    and then force you yourself to stop using your invention.

    I could be wrong but that is my interpretation of the US rules.

    • by russotto (537200)

      However in the, let's just say really "interesting" US patent system, I believe that someone else can read your invention online and patent it themselves within a year, and then force you yourself to stop using your invention. I could be wrong but that is my interpretation of the US rules.

      They could (and I've seen a few patents where it appears someone did exactly that -- there's even a recent one for a mousetrap that appeared in a very old advertisement). But that's fraud. Then there's the patent tro

  • It's not that complicated.

    You know your business well, so email the important parties and send them links to your site with the info.

    If it's a good idea, and you are upfront about it being public domain, then people will use it.

    RS

  • I actually created a site for this specific purpose about a year ago.

    PublicPatent.org [publicpatent.org]

    It's a free service that inventors can use to "publish" their work so that it is in the public domain. When something is prior art, it cannot be patented.

    The database is backed up on a regular basis, and the contents are burned to a CD that I post to myself so that dates can be verified if they ever need to be. It is a wiki style setup, where only the user who created a page can edit it. Images can be included in a pag
    • by Herve5 (879674)

      tried "show random page" on your site: looks like there are much more spam-ads than inventions, unless I'm very unlucky... You should consider a spam filter like Akismet for instance http://akismet.com/ [akismet.com]

  • One of the "how to start a business" books I read a long time ago basically suggested, "You see an idea you like, manufacture it and work out the details later" -- which could range from a reasonable percentage of profits to bankrupting the pursuer in court costs. I don't think the latter is unknown. And what are the chances your idea could be exploited in Taiwan or the Mainland, and what are you going to do about _that_?

  • I don't work for them, but my former employer (a major IC maker) used them all the time. $200 gets it published and printed in a journal.

    • I don't work for them, but my former employer (a major IC maker) used them all the time. $200 gets it published and printed in a journal.

      But that's 200 bucks he could use to buy toasts! It's hard being a broke inventor.

  • ip.com, wikipedia article, facebook entry, and finally, boil it down to 140 characters and put it on your twitter.
  • Slashdot will be around for a while. There are tons of inventors web sites, post there.

  • Once you figure out a way to do this, you should patent it and then the real money starts rolling in.
  • by PPH (736903)

    ...but from what I've seen, publishing alone won't save you, or anyone who implements your idea, from a patent lawsuit. The problem (and one of the biggest gripes heard here on /. and elsewhere) is that the USPTO will issue a patent on practically anything. Prior art be damned. While publishing provides clear evidence of such art, the problem remains that the patent troll^H^H^H^Hholder can still file suit and extract money from your licensees. Fighting a patent is expensive, even if its subsequently proven

  • by Samschnooks (1415697) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @03:19PM (#27459539)
    Go here and read up on it. [nolo.com] It's free!
  • ... you need to patent it and find licensees. Or sell the patent. If you want your invention to be used as widely as possible, you need corporate backing to turn it into a product (either form your own company to exploit the idea, or sell/offer it to other companies).

    If it's not patented, what company in their right mind would spend their time and effort marketing the product, so that if/when it becomes popular, any competitor can step in?
  • by dtmos (447842) *

    What you are looking for is a defensive publication that patent examiners are likely to search when reviewing a patent application. One candidate is The IP.com Journal [ip.com], part of the prior-art database [ip.com] maintained at ip.com [ip.com]. The ip.com prior-art database is accessible on-line; in addition, physical copies of the journal are distributed to patent offices and libraries worldwide [ip.com].

    ip.com has many well-known corporations as clients [ip.com], entities most likely to need the services provided by an effective defensive publ

  • by CB-in-Tokyo (692617) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @04:48AM (#27463847) Homepage

    This is the first step, as it could have already been done.

    http://www.google.com/patents [google.com]

    http://www.uspto.gov/main/profiles/acadres.htm [uspto.gov]

    If it hasn't already been patented and you are confident of the acceptance of the invention in the the targeted area then by god man find an investor to fund the patent for a percentage of the potential licensing fees.

    Patents were originally created specifically for people like you, to encourage and reward people who provide useful inventions by allowing them a limited monopoly on the sales of the invention in return for making the knowledge public.

    Heck, if you are that sure, and you can sell me on the idea, I will fund your patent.

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