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I had an idea for a patent and I reached out to a friend and put me in touch with a patent lawyer to discuss with the patentability of the concept. He advised that it would cost a lot of money to file and he didn't think it would go through (even though he wouldn't say so in those exact words).

So I gave up on the patenting as I didn't have the money and tried to produce the product from the ground up and look into the patent later when I had the funds. I just found that my exact product idea was filed for months later. I have email regarding trying to patent this invention with a patent lawyer.

Do I have any rights here? It is probably coincidence but there is a chance its not. Maybe he told a friend in passing, maybe not.

Is there anything I can do? I don't want to reach back out to the same person but I don't have anyone else to ask.

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2 Answers 2

You should of had both your friend and the patent lawyer sign a Non Disclosure agreement before telling them any intricate details of your invention.

If you've waited to long, it might be to late to stop them. Perhaps if you have documentation that you met up with a patent lawyer, and also have documented what was disclosed, and then somehow draw a connection between the inventor and asignee of the filed patent. You just might be able to determine if it was the lawyer who leaked your invention.

Be Cautious about telling "friends"

I will tell you a story about two "friends" who were talking at lunch one day. One of the two worked at Facebook, and was telling their friend about a graph algorithm system and method for doing social processing. The friend who was being told this thought to himself, "I wonder if that is patented". So the friend went to do a patent search and low and behold, there was no existing patent yet. Hence, the "friend" went and filed a patent application, taking the companies invention that he heard through a "friend".

The moral of the story is, be careful who you disclose information to. If it's your invention, then even if you've been best friends for years on end, make them sign a Non Disclosure Agreement before talking to them about it.

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Attorneys generally do not sign NDAs. They have a higher duty to treat their client's interests ahead of their own interests and can be disbarred for something like that and lose their livelihood. Patent practitioners do not steal ideas - they see so many and also see how few ideas from independent inventors make any money. It would be a ridiculous risk. I suppose they could be the source of an inadvertent leak. –  George White Aug 21 at 19:52

Unless you can show that your attorney violated privilege, you're probably out of luck. The system works on a first-to-file basis these days, which means the first person to file for a patent (or to file a provisional that gets carried through to a non-provisional, if we're being technical about it) is the one who gets the initial rights to it.

Given your particular case, I'm curious of how you came across the patent you're now talking about. Remember that patents take quite some time to actually get issued, so are you sure you looked at the filing date, and not the date of issuance? Furthermore, the default time (and I do mean default, it can be varied for one reason or another) that the patent office keeps applications secret for is eighteen months. That's why I ask about which date you looked at, because "months later" sounds like there could have been an error there.

As for the "showing that your attorney violated privilege" part, since I imagine that's most of what you're after, you really don't have many options beyond common sense. This patent (or application, as the case may be) that you found, was it filed by the attorney? Was it filed in the same city as where you met the attorney? Look into those sorts of options. Of course, there are no guarantees, but that's going to be your best bet at finding a breach of trust.

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