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How to showcase your invention?

How to showcase your invention?

If you're trying to license your invention, protect it by filing a patent application or using a nondisclosure agreement.

If you've developed a potentially marketable invention, you are faced with a dilemma. To make money from the invention, you must generally license the rights to it to another business, often a manufacturer or distributor. But in pitching the invention to potential licensees, you run the risk of disclosing so much information that the invention might be stolen or no longer protected by law.

So how can you shop your invention around without jeopardizing your rights? To protect yourself you can file a patent application (if your invention is patentable) or use a nondisclosure agreement to temporarily protect any disclosed information about your invention for a certain period of time (usually 6 – 12 months depending on the country) until you file for a patent. If a potential licensee refuses to sign a nondisclosure agreement then make sure you don’t disclose any technical information that enables a person specialized in your field to make your invention. You can talk about the benefits of your invention and any market related information but not the technical core of your invention.

Filing a Provisional Patent Application

If you want to apply for a patent but you cannot afford the cost of drafting a professional patent document or you are not sure yet which country you shall file your patent in, you can always apply for a provisional patent in the U.S. patent office. This type of patents is considered like reserving or establishing an early filing date. You are not required to specify your patent claims and this application is not examined by the patent office. It is only a reservation for a date! However, you will have to complete your claims and file for a regular non-provisional patent within one year.

If your invention potentially qualifies for a patent, it may be worth your while to file a provisional patent application ($65 for micro entities) and obtain "patent pending" status. Most often, this will deter rip-offs.

Using Non-disclosure Agreements

However, if you determine that you have no time to file for a patent application before disclosing your invention or if you decide to keep your invention secret, in that case you need to make sure that you disclose confidential information to as few people as possible and to have them sign a confidentiality agreement/nondisclosure agreement before you disclose any information. If someone signs a nondisclosure agreement and later uses your secret without authorization, you can sue for damages.
Nondisclosure agreements vary in format. Generally, they contain these important elements:

  • a definition of what is and what isn't confidential information,
  • obligations of the receiving party, and
  • time periods.

What's confidential. Every non-disclosure agreement provides a definition of confidential information or trade secrets. Every non-disclosure agreement also specifically excludes some information from protection, meaning that the receiving party has no obligation to protect that information. Information is not protected if it was created or discovered before or independent of any involvement with you.

Obligations of the Receiving Party. The person or company you're sharing confidential information with generally must hold the information in confidence and limit its use. Under most laws, the receiving party cannot breach the confidential relationship, induce others to breach it or induce others to acquire the confidential information by improper means. Most companies accept these obligations without discussion. If you enter into a mutual nondisclosure agreement (where you also agree to keep information confidential), you should also feel comfortable with these requirements.
 

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