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Here's a hypothetical scenario:

I have a new idea, say a new engine of some sort. I don't want to patent it because I don't want to ever profit from it and I would like to use a license in the spirit of CC. For instance, I would like to release all the schematics/drawings/documentation using the CC BY-NC-SA (or similar) license.

Now, I would make sure to post about it, send it to other hackers, etc. Would this qualify as prior art, successfully preventing someone else from getting a valid patent using this idea?

My final goal would be to release the invention in an open way, ideally avoiding patents, but preventing someone else (patent-trolls mainly) of patenting the idea just to profit from it.

If this is not the way to go, then what is the route to keep the idea free in order to avoid someone else to patent and close it?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are two services that are specifically designed to help in this situation: Research Disclosures (www.researchdisclosure.com) and IP.com (http://ip.com/publish/). Both of these charge a publication fee, but they are definitely searched by patent examiners doing novelty searches.

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Defensivepublications.org is a non-profit providing guidance for writing defensive publications. They partner with IP.com and will cover the publication fee if it meets their criteria. –  Kenneth Cochran Jul 29 '13 at 17:11
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Publish it. Period. It's really that simple. To be more specific, publish your idea is sufficient detail to enable others skilled in the art to make and use your invention.

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Have a competent patent attorney draft an exhuastive specification, file the specification in the US and with WIPO. keep the process going until the specification is published then let the applications lapse.

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Sounds wonderful in principle but I guess what you realy want to do is see your idea being utilised and creating a free for all may not be the best way to achieve your objective.

Some inventions require extensive development and tooling etc. for manufacture yet have a limited market which you will fragment with your approach, possibly making it unviable for any or every business capable of bringinging it to market to ever do so.

Consider taking the rout suggested by Phil and then think again berfore adopting his final step of letting the application lapse.

Sure - the best way involves you needing to incure expenditure on a Patent Attorney otherwise you could have stab at it yourself - you should get the best book on the subject of patenting by yourself and some patent attorneys also offer kits and are willing to review your efforts. The claims are critical and this is where a patent attorney shines further but.... provided your application contains patentable subject matter and you try and write at least one claim which eventuates as unsatisfactory you may request your USPTO examiner to write a / good claim/s for you which they would accept - they are bound to do so.

The bottom line for a valid and effective patent includes that it requires an 'enabling specification with sufficient information such that a Person Having Ordinary Skills In The Art (PHOSITA) of the invention must be able to understand it or reproduce it without any further inventing although they may experiment with dimensions or materials which should preferably not be exactly specified although if nescessary one may generally safely mention a range of dimensions / quantities or the properties of materials. The specification needs to describe and the claims need to identify a sufficiently substantial clever, new, different or inventive step, having industrial applicability and not obvious to those skilled in the field or anyone else for that matter.

If you only lodge in the US, once your Specification is published you will generally lose any patent rights in any other patenting country - approximately 142 - some countries - approximately 40 - have Grace Periods - but not all Grace periods have been created equel - both in regulation and time - even if you are able to take advantage of them.

I wish you every success.

Stuart Fox - Inventor

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Publishing an idea is important but you have to make sure that examiner sees it. For example, if you post your idea or work on your blog, there is no guarantee that the patent examiner will see it. If these publications do not in front of the examiners, they rely on what is easily accessible which generally means patent literature. Here is an article written about defensive publications and the work being done through Linux Defenders. https://lwn.net/Articles/505030/. I'm sure this is one of many that focus on defensive publications.

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One of the issues is that you can post on blogs, papers, etc. but you have to make sure that the patent examiner has access to your publication. There is no guarantee that the examiner will have much time to spend scouring the internet for prior art. –  Maria Jan 10 '13 at 20:17
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