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Let's say I had thought of the idea of a "computer mouse", but I did not know how to design the circuitry.

Would it be a safe thing to solicit the services of an expert? What type of protections should I consider?

Can I submit the patent's idea before contracting this work out?

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I've contracted engineers and product development firms several times. The standard agreement is that any patentable content developed during the course of the agreement would be owned by you (or your company) since you are paying for the work. You need to make sure this is clearly spelled out in the contract, but as I said, it is pretty much standard at least in the US and the UK. If patentable material is generated, the contracted engineer may be listed as an inventor, but the assignee would be you or your firm.

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    Don't forget the NDA – DonQuiKong Aug 30 '17 at 15:13
  • @DonQuiKong Excellent point. Every contract I've had with a design firm includes confidentiality, but before you get there you need an NDA just to discuss the project parameters. – Eric Shain Aug 30 '17 at 22:45
  • @DonQuiKong Not to mention, possibly, "non-compete". In theory, one might compete without unlawfully disclosing the proprietary invention, and not every NDA includes a non-compete clause. – Upnorth Aug 31 '17 at 20:27
  • @Upnorth good point. I don't know how common non-compete clauses are in these cases (might prove difficult for a contractor to keep many non compete clauses), but it's worth to think about one. – DonQuiKong Aug 31 '17 at 21:02
  • @Upnorth No product development firm will agree to a non-compete clause unless you represent a huge amount of continuing business. Maybe for Microsoft or General Motors. For a small firm, no way. – Eric Shain Aug 31 '17 at 22:11

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