Say I am yet to patent the mechanism of my invention and I demonstrate it at a tech summit or conference to likely investors without revealing the mechanism or any internal details of it, would the mechanism be considered prior art upon filing for a patent

UPDATE: The invention as a whole is what the investors are only aware of, the mechanism is what I want to patent with enough funding or crowd sourcing


It is very tricky, depends on the details, and has likely changed after the AIA law changed the law wording. Most of the court cases relate to the pre-AIA law wording.

This is the kind of thing they put, with more details, on the patent bar exam. There are experimental use exceptions that can help you and commercial exploitation situations that can hurt you.

From the MPEP section on Public Use.

One Specific (pre-AIA) Case

Even If the Invention Is Hidden, Inventor Who Puts Machine or Article Embodying the Invention in Public View Is Barred from Obtaining a Patent as the Invention Is in Public Use

When the inventor or someone connected to the inventor puts the invention on display or sells it, there is a "public use" within the meaning of pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(b) even though by its very nature an invention is completely hidden from view as part of a larger machine or article, if the invention is otherwise used in its natural and intended way and the larger machine or article is accessible to the public. In re Blaisdell, 242 F.2d 779, 783, 113 USPQ 289, 292 (CCPA 1957); Hall v. Macneale, 107 U.S. 90, 96-97 (1882); Ex parte Kuklo, 25 USPQ2d 1387, 1390 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1992) (Display of equipment including the structural features of the claimed invention to visitors of laboratory is public use even though public did not see inner workings of device. The person to whom the invention is publicly disclosed need not understand the significance and technical complexities of the invention.).

  • 1
    So much better than my answer. :-) – Eric S Oct 30 '19 at 22:57
  • 1
    your answer has a critical thing mine is missing - "don't do it" – George White Oct 30 '19 at 23:17
  • So if I can't demonstrate the invention to likely investors whom I hope to raise enough funds inorder to apply for a non provisional patent what would you advice – LiNKeR Nov 3 '19 at 20:58
  • 1
    You might be able to get them to sign an NDA or at least agree verbally that they will keep the information confidential. – George White Nov 3 '19 at 21:55

This is tricky. If your demonstration doesn't disclose any information about how the invention actually works then you might be okay. The important point is to avoid disclosing anything that might end up in a patent claim. That said, I'd be really reticent to do such a demonstration without first filing a provisional application or obtaining a non-disclosure agreement amongst the attendees. Be advised that I am not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice.


Careful here. See Helsinn Healthcare S.A. v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., U.S., No. 17-1229 (Jan 22, 2019). Even under NDA if the demo was an offer for sale, you can be bared. You have a one year grace period, but the other suggestion to file the provisional before the demo is the best idea. A demo to investors is not an offer for sale as this amounts to selling the rights to the patent, but if any of the documents used in the demo leak out, then they would be prior art. Go for the provisional first.

  • 1
    Good to know that SCOTUS interpreted "or otherwise available to the public" in the AIA this way. Normally a pitch to potential investors (see OP's later comment) would not involve either an offer to sell the product or an offer to acquire the invention. Even though it makes a very poor provisional, I have advised clients with no time to do anything else to file the written materials, slides, etc. of the pitch as a provisional. – George White Nov 7 '19 at 19:04
  • 1
    And welcome to Ask Patents! – George White Nov 7 '19 at 19:04

Yes obviously. If an inventor or an invention owner demonstrates his invention to public anywhere in an exhibition or expo, it is considered as a public disclosure but in order to obtain a patent for his invention the inventor has to file the patent application within a period of one year from the date of demonstration of his invention to public or else it will be considered as a prior art.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.