I don’t do patent law. It’s incredibly complex and has many arcane rules. But sometimes clients need to know just a little bit about patent law so they can ask the right questions when they hire a lawyer. So, as best I can, here’s a little primer about patent law. Consult a true patent expert for more information. (BTW, while I think I’ve got these basics correct, check carefully with your patent law expert.)
- Who gets the patent? As I understand it, most of the world uses a “first to file” the patent papers. But the U.S. does not. The U.S. uses what is called the “first to invent” standard. What does this mean? It means that you better have good records of when you came up with your patent-able idea.
- What if 2 people come up with the same idea? See “first to invent.”
- What if the other person (company) stole the idea? You better have good evidence showing what you invented, when you invented it, and some credible evidence that it was stolen from you as opposed to invented simultaneously. I am told that something called an “inventor’s notebook” that has been signed and witnessed is good to have.
Finally, I am told that similar patent applications are filed all the time. Careful, detailed, records will be absolutely vital if you come up with something useful.