Coming up with an idea for a new product or invention can be a great feeling, but it can be spoiled by the thought that someone might steal your idea. Even if you take your idea to a patent attorney, you want to be sure that the attorney does not take your idea. There are several things you can do to protect yourself when you have an idea for a patent.
Record your ideas in an inventor's notebook. Patent law generally recognizes the first person to express an idea as the rightful holder, but just thinking of what you want to invent isn't enough. An inventor's notebook should keep the record of your work, along with any drawings, diagrams, research noted and receipts for material purchased or research done. Have witnesses sign the notes to prove that you made them. Even if your patent attorney tries to steal your idea, you'll be able to prove that you had it first.
Get a non-disclosure agreement once you've worked on your idea and committed it to paper and discussed it with a patent attorney. Whenever you talk to someone about your idea, no matter who it is, get that person to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), sometimes called a confidentiality agreement or a confidential disclosure agreement. These documents detail that the information you reveal to the person is confidential and he will not be allowed to use it for his own purposes. You can draft an NDA yourself, buy a template or hire an attorney to draft one for you.
Get a provisional patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This does not have to be approved or reviewed by a patent examiner, nor do you need anyone to it for you. Once you've filed a provisional patent, you can include the notification of "Patent Pending" whenever you reveal information about your provisional patent to anyone. Although provisional patents aren't foolproof, they are a relatively easy way to protect your idea and provide a record of your attempts to secure your intellectual property rights.
Contact the bar association if you suspect that your attorney has stolen your idea. This is a serious breach of duty for an attorney. Contact your state bar association and report the suspected violation and hire another attorney to sue your patent attorney for theft.
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