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Please note, I'm not speaking in the context of a land patent, I just could not think of a better word than deed.

Let's say that:

  1. I have a concrete implementation of something that can be patented
  2. I have the financial and legal resources to likely obtain said patent
  3. I wish to grant the public at large an exclusive royalty free license to my patent
  4. I could not otherwise (with certainty) just establish prior art by having my concept published in respected journals and other common venues

Can I simply deed the patent to the public? If not, how could I accomplish my goal?

While software is my primary focus and occupation, I'm really interested to know how to accomplish this with any given patent, or if it's even possible.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Yes, it's called a statutory disclaimer:

A patentee owning the whole or any sectional interest in a patent may disclaim any complete claim or claims in a patent. In like manner any patentee may disclaim or dedicate to the public the entire term, or any terminal part of the term, of the patent granted.

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So to be clear, an inventor could not do that, but only the patent holder? (they often differ) –  Tim Post Sep 6 '12 at 14:42
    
A patent is a form of personal property. A person other than the patent's owner could no more convey the owner's patent to a third party than could a person other than you convey your home to a third party. –  g33kz0r Sep 6 '12 at 14:46
    
Does this apply if the inventor has not yet obtained or even filed for a patent, as the question suggests? Must she wait for fiiling/issuance? –  bib Sep 6 '12 at 17:01
    
@bib How could one disclaim ownership in something he or she does not own? –  g33kz0r Sep 7 '12 at 19:00
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@bib The question specifically asks if I can obtain a patent and then put it in the public domain. That is, if I'm not certain that I can simply establish prior art to prevent someone else from patenting it. The idea being simply to share something I think is awesome with everyone, without fear of some troll picking up a patent that covers it and profiting. I'll edit my question later when I get back to my desk. –  Tim Post Sep 8 '12 at 4:25
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Maybe http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/ could help you with that ?

From their website:

Open Invention Network® is refining the intellectual property model so that important patents are openly shared in a collaborative environment. Patents owned by Open Invention Network® are available royalty-free to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against the Linux System. This enables companies to make significant corporate and capital expenditure investments in Linux — helping to fuel economic growth.

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Having been a member of OIN for some time I would heartily second this option. –  Rory Alsop Sep 6 '12 at 9:13
    
That is an excellent organization (I did up vote), however I'm not so sure they'd be interested in a better mouse trap (or things beyond software). –  Tim Post Sep 6 '12 at 13:37
    
I spoke to Tom Tyson at the OIN at length one day and they also help with publishing defensive publications. I asked if they were just interested in software only and he said they will accept anything. –  Elijah Lynn Oct 4 '12 at 14:58
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If you haven't yet filed a patent application, the most cost-effective way to accomplish your goal is a defensive publication. Very important: Make sure that you disclose enough information so that people of ordinary skill in the field of invention to which your invention pertains can make and use the invention without having to engage in an unreasonable amount of additional development work.

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It seems that defensive publications (at least with the USPTO) are no longer an option, and were replaced with statutory invention registration which still requires the filing and application fee be paid. This means that you stop short of actually receiving the patent, but block future patents as if you had received it? –  Tim Post Oct 3 '12 at 23:04
    
How can publication no longer be an option? Once an idea is published it's prior art and you can't patent it. Assuming the publication is detailed enough (and if one wishes to make the idea public, there's no reason for it not to be), why wouldn't publication be sufficient? –  Michael Kohne Oct 4 '12 at 13:56
    
A defensive publication just serves as prior art. I don't think you can invalidate prior art if it wasn't created a certain way. –  Elijah Lynn Oct 4 '12 at 14:59
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Jorge is dealing the straight goods! (meaning he is very correct - for those of you who do not speak fluent hipster [yet.]) Defensive publication is fast and cheap and gives the idea broad "protection" in your inverted sense of protection from privatization via patent. It will have worldwide impact no matter where you publish as long as it is a public pronouncement. Making plain how it is done is vital and you might also, in the disclosure, list any alternatives you can think of to broaden the scope of what you are disclosing.... What is it? You get to be one of the rare participants in inventor circles who can just blab all they want, so go for it! (however...)

A thing to think about: Assuming it is useful, have you vigorously assured yourself it is novel? If you don't do some diligence on that front, you risk inviting people to practice an invention not your own. If they infringe, you are not likely to get in trouble (statement of odds and an opinion so worth $.02 MAX) BUT you want to be a help to the users of your invention right?

So the service of making sure it is yours to give away could mean: 1) more research into the prior art and/or 2) actually obtaining the patent and sharing it (per above)

If you have a budget for the patent and have done the prior art search maybe it is time to spend a part of that budget with an attorney to figure out the best and most money/time efficient method of committing it to the public good. One of the things that makes it hard to prescribe a particular position is that different fields of invention behave differently. Some are very complexly staked out and full of ferocious litigants. Others less so and so on. Attorneys don't bite. Find one and layout what you want. Good luck

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