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The Poor Man's Patent (75 hits)

The Poor Man’s Patent

The commonly known “Poor Man’s Patent” is a document created by a person in an attempt to protect his or her idea/invention. In this practice, an inventor prepares a written description of their invention, places it in a self-addressed stamped envelope and mails it. The envelope comes back to the inventor with a postmark date. The inventor then keeps this sealed and postmarked envelope containing that written description as proof that they conceived the idea for the invention. The postmark date serves to identify a point in time for the conception of the idea.
Many people believe that this practice gives them protection against others that may conceive the same or a similar idea. The truth is that this sealed and postmarked envelope has very little benefit. The most one can do with this postmarked envelope is show evidence of an approximate conception date for the idea. This conception date alone does not protect the idea. Furthermore, if the envelope is ever opened, the inventor loses the minimal benefits that they may have had from the sealed and postmarked envelope. Patent laws do not protect ideas that are intentionally concealed from the public. If an inventor conceives an idea but keeps the idea a secret and a second inventor independently conceives, develops and files a patent application for the same or a similar idea, the second inventor is legally entitled (has first priority) to pursue protection for that idea. Although someone may be the first to conceive an idea, the first inventor must be diligent in developing the idea in order to claim ownership. The patent laws are designed to reward a person that first conceives an idea, diligently develops their idea and then makes the idea known to the public. Part of this diligence is filing a patent application for the idea.
In order to receive patent protection for an idea, an inventor must take some affirmative steps to develop and protect the idea. These steps should include: 1) generating a structural and/or functional design for the idea, 2) if possible, generating a model or prototype of the idea; and 3) filing a patent application (provisional or formal patent application) to begin the process for obtaining patent protection for the idea. These steps should be done in a consistent manner.
Although many people know about the “Poor Man’s Patent”, the best approach to establish an initial date of conception for an idea prior to filing a patent application is to:
1) prepare a written document describing the idea (including structural and/or functional descriptions of the idea and drawings if applicable)
2) sign and date the document in the presence of one or more people, and
3) have the person(s) that witnessed your signature sign and date the document. A notary can serve as a witness in this matter. This approach of signing the document in front of a witness is similar to the practice in most technology-based companies when trying to establish a date of the conception of the invention.
Posted By: Darcell Walker
Saturday, April 11th 2009 at 2:12PM
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