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This is question for mechanical/physical design. Not for code since according to my understanding code is protected by copyright. But for mechanical design, there isn't anything that has equal protection.

According to my understanding there isn't such thing as public patent. So how does anyone protect mechanical engineering design that is released to public use? According to my understanding anyone can pick that up and patent it for itself. It doesn't matter who invented it first, only who patented it first. Then nobody else can use that public design anymore.

As a side note, Chinese companies are patenting things that we are thinking as "public knowledge".

So how do I protect design that I want everyone to have right to use and prevent someone else patenting it to him/herself?

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You can’t patent something that you didn’t invent. The U.S. has joined the rest of the world in being first to file rather than first to invent but that is a shorthand for first inventor to file. In the rest of the world you can’t file an invention after it has been exposed to the public, even by a day(or have a priority date from filing elsewhere). In the U.S. we have a sort-of one year grace period after public disclosure by the inventor.

If you want to invent something and dedicate it to the public you can publish the details of it somewhere and never file on it. There is a danger an examiner will not notice your publication so another option is to file for a patent and after the application is published explicitly abandon it.

Published applications are very likely to turn up in a search and prevent someone else from getting a patent.

An aside, the Chinese patent system is continually getting better.

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  • Does filing for a patent still cost even if intent is to explicitly abandon it after the publication? And is there some really good website that examiners search before granting patent. A website where I could publish my invention for free and still be like 80% sure that examiners find it?
    – Umh
    Jul 10 at 8:58

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