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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.

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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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