I have a good idea that is non-obvious and new. I want to make this technology (a new encryption technique) available for everyone to use, and keep it entirely patent-free, including myself. I have written a paper that describes the technology in enough detail to be able to prove it to be prior art for patents on this idea, however the paper is not yet ready to be published.

I am communicating with various people about my ideas however, and I'd like to avoid the possibility of them (or others who see the communication) filing a patent. Is there a way to provably put my ideas so far in the public domain, such that if someone tries to patent my idea I can prove prior art?

I have a PDF on a publicly accessibly web server, but right now I have no way of proving that I put the file up there before a patent application.

A solution available through the internet would be highly preferred. I am a student not living in the US, and I don't really have the money to send mail to the US. Hiring a lawyer / physical presence in the US is downright impossible financially.

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    Provably is important but findable is also important. If is provably, but obscurely, in the public domain someone else who later independently invents it may very well be granted a patent. If they try to in force it, the other side's search might turn up your posting. What is better is the other inventor or the patent examiner find your work and the patent isn't issued in the first place. The examiner is not going to search Sourceforge.
    – George White
    Nov 4, 2013 at 20:16
  • Send yourself a registered letter, don't open it. The post stamp is proof of the date and the contents can be disclosed if the need comes up by a notary or similar. Jun 14, 2015 at 14:46
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    @0xc0000022l Secrets don't count. Sending yourself a registered letter and not opening it omits the necessary "publish" requirement for disclosure, therefore making it worthless to establish prior art.
    – JSH
    Jun 24, 2015 at 14:13
  • @JSH: YMMV, but in some jurisdictions the post stamp certainly has that value of proof. It's not secret (you may still publish it), but if someone contests that you were the one to publish it or similar stunts, you can prove (again, in some jurisdictions) that you indeed invented it and whatever else you put into the sealed envelope. Jun 24, 2015 at 17:10
  • @0xc0000022l Interesting view. This has been touched on here before... patents.stackexchange.com/questions/5723/…
    – JSH
    Jun 24, 2015 at 20:14

7 Answers 7


There are commercial companies set up to publish things exactly for this reason. They charge by the page. One, Kenneth Mason Publishing, is in the U.K. and has Research Disclosures. Looks like is over $100 per page. Is it short?. Another is IP.com.

To do it free but in a way that is time stamped and likely to show up in a search requires more creativity. Take a look at the waybackback machine at archive.org. I see they have a feature that allows you to point at a web site and ask them to archive it for you. Patent examiners have used the wayback machine to establish prior art dates.

If you can make the core of it very short you might try halfbakery.


You could also consider filing a patent and then letting it go abandoned. If you qualify for micro entity status the filing fees would be about $380. Since you don't care if it becomes a patent you wouldn't need to hire a patent attorney to write it. This is like user2276567's idea but saves the costs of pursuing a granted patent.

  • Sadly, I have neither $100 or $380 lying around to throw at this.
    – orlp
    Nov 4, 2013 at 20:19
  • IP.com is fantastic for doing this. My former employer would publish disclosures that weren't submitted to the PTO on IP.com to protect our rights to the idea. Apr 25, 2014 at 3:00

If it's an encryption technique, it's probably software related, and if you've got code, then that can easily be used to show functioning of the idea. Posting such source code on places like bitbucket, or sourceforge are popular enough that their timestamps for posting would probably stand up to scrutiny in court.

  • Add PGP signatures (available for Git and Hg) into the mix and you're golden. Jun 14, 2015 at 14:48
  • @oxC0000022L Adding pgp signatures would only be necessary to prove identity. But when releasing into the public domain, identity is irrelevant?
    – McKay
    Jun 15, 2015 at 12:44
  • is it, though? If someone contests that it's in the public domain, being able to prove beyond any doubt that I invented and released it into the PD may be relevant. No? Jun 17, 2015 at 13:20
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    @oxCooooo22L Sure, that might help, but if you post stuff online, and then later someone tries to patent it, it would be trivial to say "regardless of whoever released it earlier, there is prior art at this location..."
    – McKay
    Jun 17, 2015 at 17:32

I did this with one of my drawings...


It is a free service (I think). I don't know much about it, but seemed to serve my goals of getting something in front of the world via a 3rd party web site.

Google searches on some terms in the title drawing bring this design up quick.

Note, I do have a design patent in process and a provisional in place within the one year limit for the design described in the drawing. This is my first foray into patents, etc. I wanted to be sure if I do not prevail on my patent efforts, it enters the public domain quickly. Hopefully, I've achieved this.



FirstToDisclose.org is a defensive publication service that is provided to users free of charge.

It is one of the services that Google suggested the USPTO use to help examiners find relevant prior art.

Edit: As of 2021-Feb-15, this service no longer seems to exist. (Thanks Eric S.) It looks like the original list of services is no longer available either.

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    firsttodisclose.org has been hijacked by a law firm and no longer seems to work.
    – Eric S
    Feb 14, 2021 at 16:32

The patent system is based on "first to file" but the person who files the patent application must be able to prove that he/she actually invented it. No one can "steal" an idea from you and try to patent it for themselves.

In addition to George White's suggestions (IP.com, the Wayback Machine, and halfbakery.com), you could also just patent it yourself and release the patent under a non-assertion pledge similar to Google's.

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    By signing the declaration that goes along with a patent application the inventor swears that they are a true inventor of the claimed matter. But, there is no point in the examination process where any proof of that is required. There is a new process called a derivation proceeding that allows a later filer to accuse the earlier filer of having stolen it from them. This is only between filers. If you don't file you can't use that procedure.
    – George White
    Nov 4, 2013 at 0:16
  • It is quite possible for two different people to invent the same thing independently.
    – Eric S
    Aug 2, 2019 at 21:24

Low tech, but this should work. Go to your local county courthouse or county recorder and get a certified true copy with a date time stamp. Then you can post a scan of the document online as proof that you did this. The county will have a permanent record of your filing, and you can retain the paper copy.

Certified true copies exist to serve this type of purpose.

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    I'm not sure this helps. While you can prove when you got the time stamp, the important information for prior art purposes is the date you published the document publically. The "certified true copy" date is irrelevant to this. This sort of thing was useful back when the patent system was based on first to invent. Now, patents are based on first to file and proving you had the idea first is not important.
    – Eric S
    Aug 2, 2019 at 21:22
  • Hmm that's why it's important to publish a paper in a scientific journal. Would it work?.. Apr 24, 2021 at 0:45

You could submit your idea as free content by going to https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/.

  • I'm not certain this answers the question at all. Creative Commons relates to how works are licensed, and has no bearing on whether those works would subsequently be prior art.
    – Maca
    Aug 4, 2016 at 5:23
  • I wrote that answer when I had not yet used it to submit an idea, which was a mistake. ResearchGate might be a way to do so but only researchers can create an account to post their ideas there and I don't know whether ideas posted there are free content.
    – Timothy
    Aug 5, 2016 at 13:07

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