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If someone invented something today, such as an anti-cancer drug, could they share it with society freely without worrying that someone could steal and patent it?

Or would it be safer for the inventor to patent it himself and give the information away freely to all drug companies?

Could Benjamin Franklin invent something in 2016 and freely share it with society without fear that it would be patented and the rights of the invention claimed?

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If someone invented something today, such as an anti-cancer drug, could they share it with society freely without worrying that someone could steal and patent it?

Yes. In fact, once something is shared publicly, it can't ever be patented by anyone (with some limited exceptions for the inventor themselves in a few countries for a short period after disclosure).

Would it be safer for the inventor to patent it himself and give the information away freely to all drug companies?

Not in any real sense. In fact, that would basically be a waste of money.

There is an argument that the inventor could use the patent to countersue anyone who alleges the inventor of patent infringement. However, such an approach would run entirely contrary to the idea that the inventor wants to propagate their invention widely and freely anyway. You can't really have it both ways, in my opinion.

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