What are Invention Disclosures?
Invention disclosures are the beginning of the patenting process. At its core, an invention disclosure is the first notification that an invention has been created, and establishes the description and chronology of an invention.
Invention disclosures include a detailed description of a novel invention that explains how it is created and reproduced. This explains the importance of the invention, why it improves on current designs, and what differentiates and distinguishes the invention from other prior art. This is important, as it allows IP teams to understand whether there is any monetary value in the invention and what potential paths towards IP protections and commercialization can occur.
Although an early description, a disclosure is absolutely crucial to defending intellectual property claims, as they can be used to defeat legal challenges to a patent.
For many organizations, it can be difficult to generate invention disclosures, even if the organization engages in the type of intensive R&D that typically allows for inventions to be created. To be successful, employees need to be aware of the policies around invention disclosures, typical organizational practices, and an understanding of how the process works.
Rather than a one-off event, staff need to be trained that invention disclosures are expected and encouraged, even if it does not lead to a novel invention. Organizations must also make their staff aware of policies such as 'duty to disclose'. Depending on the state, duty to disclose may go beyond inventions during working hours but also include inventions created off-site during non-work related tasks.
For organizational inventors to be confident in the process, it is best to keep them in continuous contact with IP teams during their research and to remind them to disclose any potential inventions. This offers two benefits to IP teams: inventors feel assured that their inventions are being taken seriously and evaluated, and that no potential invention loses its ability to be protected by a patent.
This is particularly important if they are aiming to publish their research, as the disclosure of an invention within a publication without filing a provisional patent can lead to the loss of patent rights.
Filing and More
There is never a bad time to file an invention disclosure, but disclosures should only be filed when the work can be considered an invention. Regardless of whether a patent is ever filed, disclosures offer protection against competing claims, especially in areas where first-to-invent trumps first-to-file claims. Furthermore, invention disclosures are more of a 'living document' than not; inventors can file updated invention disclosures as their invention progresses, which offers protection to the invention despite changes that have been made.
However, great care must be taken to ensure that invention disclosures are done confidentially, as public disclosures can lead to a loss of patent rights and may be challenged by outside parties.
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