2

Allow me to ask four variants of this question in order to try and make clear what the point is. I will also answer each of them according to my current understanding, which I seek to find out if is right or not.

Suppose that I obtain a timestamp (through a public agency, a notary etc.) for the document describing an invention, and then I do not reveal it publicly.

(i) If at a later time I apply for a patent, will this action affect the application's fate?

My current guess: No, since it wasn't revealed.

(ii) If at a later time someone else either applies for a patent or uses something quite similar to the invention, can I use this action to protect against it?

My guess: No, because there's no prior art established.

Now suppose that I obtain a timestamp for the document describing an invention, and then I deposit it at an appropriate depository.

(iii) If at a later time I apply for a patent, will this action affect the application's fate?

My current guess: Yes, negatively, since it was revealed.

(iv) If at a later time someone else either applies for a patent or uses something quite similar to the invention, can I use this action to protect against it?

My guess: Ehm, no clue.

Thanks for any clarification that you can give on these points.

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Note: This question is a hopefully improved version of this one; I believe that it is not a duplicate, since I have understood more in the meantime and added relevant detail.

2

Prior to 1995, it was normal practice to get potentially patentable ideas witnessed, signed and dated. This was what we did at my job. This was because in the US the USPTO used to have a first to invent system for determining inventorship. However, since 1995, the USPTO went to a first to file system (aligning with most other countries). Thus, having a verifiable date on some document describing an invention doesn't impact who will get a patent. The patent will go to the first person who files an application. So to answer your specific questions:

Suppose that I obtain a timestamp (through a public agency, a notary etc.) for the document describing an invention, and then I do not reveal it publicly.

(i) If at a later time I apply for a patent, will this action affect the application's fate?

No, since it wasn't publicly disclosed.

(ii) If at a later time someone else either applies for a patent or uses something quite similar to the invention, can I use this action to protect against it?

No, because with no public disclosure, there's no prior art established.

Now suppose that I obtain a timestamp for the document describing an invention, and then I deposit it at an appropriate depository.

(iii) If at a later time I apply for a patent, will this action affect the application's fate?

Assuming the depository is public you won't be able to patent. You do, however have a 12 month grace period after disclosure in the US.

(iv) If at a later time someone else either applies for a patent or uses something quite similar to the invention, can I use this action to protect against it?

Assuming the idea was publicly disclosed, it should keep the other patent from getting issued or at least provide some protection should you get sued for infringement. If you know of an application, there are provisions for challenging it.

Please remember that I am not a lawyer and this should not be considered legal advice. There is no substitute for consulting with an actual patent attorney or agent.

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3

I agree with the answer from @Eric Shain. I would add one nuance. At least in the U.S. there is a derivation proceeding that allows one to challenge an earlier filed application of another on the grounds that they stole it from you. In that case any evidence of when you invented could be material. To win you not only need to show you invented it prior to the other person filing but that they got the invention from you.

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Time stamp gives you a minimum protection : For moral rights, it is a proof that you invented first. For commercial rights, as it is mentioned above a patent is the only guarantee for owning rights on the invitation. Still, in most countries, a time stamp or a local patent request allows you to prove in front of a judge that you own/share rights on the invention in that country.

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  • 1
    This is likely not right. The whole world is pretty much first to file now and has been since 1995. If you time stamp a document and hide it away and someone else obtains a patent, the they own the patent and you lose. – Eric S Apr 9 at 13:30
  • This answer is wrong unless "moral rights" means something. "a time stamp or a local patent request" is a strange construct - the time stamp is meaningless but filing is everything. – George White Apr 9 at 19:05

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