About the Inventioneers Patent Scholarship

For those of you new to our program, we are the Inventioneers, a non-profit public charity. We began as a FIRST® LEGO® League
(FLL®) team back in 2004 and had amazing success in that program (we still need to pinch ourselves every once in a while).
We were the four time NH State FLL® Champions and in April of 2010, we earned the Champions Award at the FLL® World Festival
in Atlanta, GA.

We have a utility patent pending at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Important Announcement:

Program Re-Launch Coming Fall 2016!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Inventioneers Patent Tip: Public Disclosure

One area where kid inventors may put themselves at a disadvantage is in the case of public disclosure of their inventions.  Under United States law, a public disclosure occurs when an invention is:
  1. Described in a printed publication anywhere in the world;
  2. Placed in public use in the United States; or
  3. Offered for sale in the United States.
Printed publication can be further defined as any communication that:
  1. Appears in a fixed-media form (i.e., not necessarily “printed”);
  2. Is considered to be available to the public (either because it was intended to be made public, as an article in a scientific journal, or because it was made without an obligation of confidentiality, as a casual letter to a friend); and
  3. Describes an invention in such detail that one familiar with the field (“skilled in the art”) could duplicate it or put it into use.1
You can see that making an invention public on the internet falls under "public disclosure" and starts the one year clock ticking to obtain a utility patent.

Another issue that arises is that when kids
disclose their invention idea in a general way but don't disclose all details, no priority date is established for the finer points of their invention.  That means that if someone else either discloses or files a provisional application with details you intended to be part of your invention but did not publicly disclose, the other party secures the priority date on those details.

So what does this all mean?  If you are going to go public with your invention, tell all - but only do so if you either:
  1. Do intend to file a utility patent within one year of disclosure
  2. Do not intend to file any patent applications and are intentionally sharing your idea for others to use.
Of course, we think the best course of action is to complete a provisional patent application which will force you to write down every detail of your invention.  This is then filed at the USPTO and clearly establishes that you were the first to come up with your ideas.  Filing the provisional application also starts the one year clock ticking but provides the best protection for your invention.

Related links:

Priority Date

1Thanks to the University of Tennessee Research Foundation website for some of this information