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Public Disclosure Without IP Protection: A Common Startup Oversight

Posted by Isabel Fox | Apr 28, 2022 | 0 Comments

One of the most common pitfalls of a startup company is to publicly disclose its patentable idea before securing IP protection. Public disclosure of an invention can include, but is not limited to:

  • Listing a product for sale on Amazon or another online reseller, including your own website;
  • Discussing your idea or product in a promotional video or interview;
  • Exhibiting at a tradeshow;
  • Presenting to potential investors; and
  • Posting about the idea or product on a social media platform or crowdfunding website.

Public disclosure of your idea before filing a patent application exposes you to potential theft of your idea. Also, it may cause issues if you try to obtain patent protection in the future. The rules governing patent law allow for a one-year “grace period” following public disclosure. Essentially, this grace period will enable you to file a patent application (in the U.S.) that claims an invention up to one year following public disclosure of that invention. After one year, you will be prevented from obtaining patent protection due to your own public disclosure, which will qualify as “prior art” against your invention. In essence, you donate your idea to the public domain to use free and clear.

If you have already publicly disclosed your idea (or even if you haven't publicly disclosed it yet but plan to soon) and do not yet have patent protection in place, you should contact an IP professional soon to protect your patent rights before it's too late. The IP professional will likely recommend you pursue patent protection via a provisional patent application first, as a provisional application can be drafted quickly and for a much lower cost than a non-provisional application. In some cases, a provisional application can be prepared in a single day for a price much lower than you might expect. In contrast, non-provisional applications often take weeks to prepare and generally cost thousands of dollars. Filing a provisional application establishes a filing date for your idea and starts a one-year clock before a non-provisional application must be filed to have the benefit of the provisional application's filing date. Many entrepreneurs use the one-year period to finalize product design and raise additional funds so they are in a better position to work with their IP professional to create a high-quality and comprehensive non-provisional application.

How Gallium Law Can Help

The IP professionals at Gallium Law have significant experience working with solo inventors and startup companies with budgets large and small. Whether or not you've already publicly disclosed your idea, we're excited to discuss your business and your IP concerns and goals and look forward to helping you protect your brand and ideas. Please fill out this Contact Form or call us at 651-256-9480 to set up a meeting today.

*The information provided in this article is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. The content of this article is for informational purposes only and is meant as a starting point in your search for answers to your legal questions.

About the Author

Isabel Fox

Isabel Fox is a registered patent agent and has been with Gallium Law since 2018. Her practice largely revolves around utility and design patent prosecution; including conducting patent landscape searches, drafting patent applications, and responding to Office Actions issued by the USPTO...


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