Read this tip to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Obtaining a Patent and other Invention topics.
Before you begin the process of obtaining an invention patent, you must be careful not to disclose your new invention. If evidence is found that you did so within a certain time frame before filing for an invention patent, your claim could be denied. In fact, to establish what is called priority of invention, you cannot use your invention in public or sell it or publish anything about it more than one year before you file a patent for it. Foreign patent laws are likely to be even more strict on this disclosure idea. If you want to obtain evidence of the date of conception of your invention in the meantime, the US Patent and Trademark Office offers what is called a Disclosure Document Program.
The office will accept and preserve for two years documented evidence of your discovery. If you do not file for a patent within two years, this document will be destroyed. If you file a subsequent application, you should always refer to this letter in your application. By law Disclosure Documents have to be kept in confidence by the US patent office. But, the limitation of such documents are stated quite clearly by the office: "The Disclosure Document is not a patent application. The date of its receipt in the USPTO will not become the effective filing date of any patent application subsequently filed." You might have heard of creating evidence of a new idea by mailing a registered letter to yourself. Some people refer to this as the poor man's patent.
The Disclosure Document program is one way to obtain more credible evidence of your invention. There are other ways, too so investigate patent law thoroughly or contact a patent attorney to determine your best move at this stage of patenting.