I'm looking to hire a freelancer to help develop a product for me. Once the individual provides me the schematics and designs I would like to patent them before I work on creating the app/UI. What steps should I take during this process and what information do I need from the developer? Is there specific information, dates or conversations I need to record for legal purposes?
First and foremost make sure the employment agreement you have with the freelancer makes clear that you will own all intellectual property that comes about as a result of the work. It is likely that the designs and schematics will not be eligible for a patent. To obtain a patent an idea must be novel, non-obvious and useful. If the freelancer is simply designing a circuit to meet a well defined need, then there might not be any inventive step. This doesn't mean the work product isn't useful, just that you may not be able to obtain patent protection. If you do think there is something inventive, then consulting with a patent attorney or agent is suggested. The patent attorney can help you evaluate patentability along with freedom-to-operate. If there is a patentable idea, then it is quite possible that you will need to hire the freelancer to support the drafting of the application. Assuming the freelancer did the inventing, he or she would be listed as an inventor even if you are the assignee and own the patent. In any case, don't disclose the idea publicly in any way until a patent application is filed.