Say I may have a "computer-implemented invention" which is very easy on the hardware side but very complicated on the software side. I may be thinking about getting a patent for it. What would be my reasons for revealing my complicated (read "sophisticated") methods that the software is based on to the world?

I mean such a patent may bring me more problems then advantages since it reveals all internals to the public and it may be very difficult (and costly!) for me to actually find and fight down patent infringements (see this post).

If I don't patent a thing there is a danger that someone else will try to patent it. In such case, can I hijack such patent application if I prove (with internal documents and human witnesses) that I have been selling same product for some time already? I guess that application would go public then which would be a disadvantage for me then since I wouldn't be able to patent it myself anymore - most likely competition would start...

The final thought is I may be able to earn more money using the invention without a patent keeping my methods in secret but if I get a patent there may be a lot of competition using it without me really being able to prevent them from doing so or event being able to track them down at all...

1 Answer 1


If you have the money to enforce it, a patent allows you to block other people from making, using, or selling your invention without getting a license from you. Revealing your invention is a requirement to get the patent.

If you copyright your code, this is almost worthless as another programmer could pretty simply program around your copyright. You would not be able to stop them in this case.

If you just keep your code a secret, anyone else can make the same invention, or reverse engineer your invention. You would not be able stop them in this case.

So, a patent is the only way to really actively protect your invention in the event that others also discover it.

You have to weigh the relative merits for yourself - do you have the resources and ability to determine whether people would be infringing your invention (you are correct that it is difficult and costly to find and stop infringers)? How hard would it be to reverse engineer or discover your invention if you kept it secret?

If you keep your invention secret and someone else does patent it, they may be able to successfully prosecute you for infringing their patent, despite the fact that you invented it first. The US now follows a first-to-file model.

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