USPTO Seal We’ve said it before, but there is an absolutely crucial patent deadline coming up on March 17, 2013 due to a change in U.S. patent law.  Contact us immediately to avoid complete and permanent loss of your patent rights if (a) you have an invention for which you have not yet filed a patent application, and (b), you performed any of the following actions within the last year:

1. You used the invention in public.  That means that you used the invention where someone who does not owe you a duty of secrecy could see you use it.

2. You sold or offered to sell the invention to anyone.

3. The invention was ‘otherwise available’ to the public.
Do any of these situations apply to you?  Contact us immediately.  There still is time to protect your invention before March 17.

Even if the above situations do not apply to you, how do you protect your inventions on or after March 17, 2013?  To avoid instant and complete loss of your patent rights, do not disclose your invention or use your invention where it can be seen by anyone unless that person has signed a non-disclosure agreement or otherwise owes you a duty of secrecy.  Also, do not sell or offer your invention for sale unless you have first filed a patent application.

These laws are new, so no one knows exactly how they will be interpreted; however, there are common situations that we can anticipate now to avoid tragedy later.

Employees: If you have employees, do you have employment agreements with those employees?  Do those employment agreements specify that the employee has the duty to keep company information secret, including information relating to inventions by the employee or by other employees?

Contractors:  Do you utilize private contractors, such as engineers, designers, plumbers and the cleaning crew?  Do your contracts specify that the contractor and employees of the contractor have the duty to keep company inventions secret?

Visitors:  Do visitors come to your facility?  If a visitor, say, walks into a room at your plant where a new invention is in operation, operation of the invention could be considered use of the invention in public or could be considered making the invention ‘otherwise available’ to the public, instantly terminating your patent rights.   You can avoid this result by having visitors sign non-disclosure agreements for the privilege of entering your building.  As a less-intrusive option, incorporate a non-disclosure paragraph into a sign-in sheet and require that all visitors and contractors sign the sheet.

Customers:  As noted, do not sell or offer your invention for sale until the patent application is filed.  A sale or offer of sale will immediately terminate patent rights even if the customer signed an agreement to keep the invention secret.

The patent world changes on March 17, 2013.  Please protect yourself so that you do not lose your patent rights.

— Robert Yarbrough, Esq.