What can I do to someone who stole my idea and patented it? He stole this idea from me when I let him live with me while he was separated from his wife. Knowing that I didn't have the money to hire a patent lawyer he went behind my back and with the help of his mom's money patented my idea. He then tried to get me to sign a document stating that he alone conceived of it but I wouldn't sign it which made him very mad. I do have copies that I printed out, of a conversation on Facebook that we had where he basically admits that I conceived of this idea.

  • I forgot to mention that happened in the United States.
    – rugoofy2
    Nov 13 '16 at 4:32

Technically, it is not legal for someone to patent your invention:

"The patent application includes a declaration in which the applicant swears that everything in the application is true. So if you falsely claim that you invented something when you did not, that would amount to fraud on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office which would result in a termination of any rights you may have obtained (along with possible sanctions). Second, your theft of the idea (referred to as misappropriation) may result in a separate lawsuit against you by the real inventor. That lawsuit may be based on different claims depending on your relationship with the real inventor -- for example, whether you had a confidential relationship with the actual inventor. In general theft of ideas is a dangerous game and one that usually backfires professionally and financially."

source: http://www.intellectualpropertylawfirms.com/legal-advice/patent-rights-and-laws-for-ideas.htm

  • The direct answer is you've have to take them to take them to court and sue them. You'd need to prove that they did indeed steal your invention. To that end, you should save any correspondence (email, text, etc.) you have with relevant information. You would definitely want to consult an attorney on how specifically to proceed. Consultations are generally free.

The problem is that patent litigation is generally ruinously expensive, so most parties will choose to settle.

If the invention makes a great deal of money, there are attorneys who will work on a straight contingency basis for a big cut of the award or settlement. [Note that the idea that most parties settle can work in your favor here—those "ruinous costs" apply equally to the alleged thief.]

Right now, every country in the world uses the "First to File" rule. (The US was the last holdout and only switched over in 2013.) This means that if multiple inventors have the same idea, the one who files first has the right to the patent. Obviously, this circumstance would also seem to open the door to the type of fraud you're experiencing.


In future, you may want to consider filing provisional patents before discussing ideas you believe in. Provisional patents may be filed very inexpensively and do not require a lawyer--you just have to get the ideas down on paper and make sure it is understandable. This then gives you a full year to decide whether to take on the expense of pursuing an non-provisional (formal) filing.

  • 1
    "This means it doesn't matter who had the idea": I fear this isn't quite right, or is at least a gloss over the meaning of first-to-file. An application must be filed by an inventor or an assignee of the inventor. An application filed by another party is invalid.
    – Maca
    Nov 16 '16 at 19:34
  • @Maca thanks for correcting me. I've revised the answer, which is hopefully now more accurate.
    – DukeZhou
    Nov 16 '16 at 19:51
  • I don't think this actually answers the question. Okay, yes, it costs money to go after someone who stole your invention, but the question was, what can you do (if you are ready to invest some money in pursuing your rights). You didn't answer that. Plus, if he does admit it, maybe criminal charges could be an option (I don't know, just guessing here). The answer to the real question would surely be quite interesting if elaborated correctly.
    – DonQuiKong
    Dec 3 '16 at 21:44
  • @DonQuiKong Thanks for catching that! The answer has been evolving based on helpful feedback, and the direct answer seems to have fallen by the wayside. Edited to correct the omission.
    – DukeZhou
    Dec 3 '16 at 22:14

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