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How Do I Put an Invention Into the Public Domain?

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the co2-powered-self-replicating-gravity-detector dept.

Patents 233

Nefarious Wheel writes "I have a couple of inventions — mechanical devices, based on physical principles — that I believe could transform certain aspects of industry. The trouble is, I can't afford to file patents, and even if I could, I'm not sure that would be the best way for these devices to be made available as widely as I'd like. Is there some way to publish the details of these innovations in the public domain in such a way as to protect them from being snaffled away by some patent troll? I'd be happy with a contribution (or simple attribution) model for recompense, which could be zero to whatever, but that's not as important to me as getting the ideas out there for anyone who wants to use them. This isn't copyright, and I know of no patent equivalent to Creative Commons. In short, what's the best way to protect an invention against someone filing a patent on it, short of patenting the device yourself? Can this be done?"

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233 comments

First thought from a Republican... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457469)

You some kind of commie?

I told you geeks are DUMB !!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457493)

Dumb is what geeks are /././././

Re:I told you geeks are DUMB !!!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457623)

Yeah no kidding. When it said "How do I put an invention into the public domain?" I thought the answer was pretty obvious: "very carefully." Next?

JUST publish it, make it "prior art" (4, Informative)

nweaver (113078) | about 5 years ago | (#27457475)

Once something is published, it becomes "prior art" and someone else can't patent prior art and obvious extensions to prior art.

And also once you publish it, you can't file for a patent on it outside the US, and you can only file for a US patent within a year.

Have to publish it in the right place (5, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about 5 years ago | (#27457503)

But patent examiners aren't likely to find such published prior art unless you publish it in something that patent examiners actually read. Google defensive publication [google.com] brought me a Wikipedia article explaining the concept [wikipedia.org] and a short guide [securinginnovation.com].

Re:Have to publish it in the right place (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457911)

Well, that's the discussion wrapped up nice and neat in just two comments. Well done Slashdot!

Re:Have to publish it in the right place (4, Interesting)

Vadim Makarov (529622) | about 5 years ago | (#27457999)

I once encountered a U.S. patent application filled in 2005 whose idea was described in a research article published in 2001. I tried to report it to the patent examiner.

First, I looked around for a "report prior art" button on the application page. None.

Second, I looked for USPTO's email. I don't remember if I found one, it was years ago, but I do remember that an attempt at reporting prior art via email was not successful. Probably I got a reply saying they don't take tips via email, I don't recall clearly.

Third, I took the trouble of calling USPTO (international call, not cheap), waiting in the queue a quarter hour, and inquiring where do I send a copy of that research article. It turned out, I have to snail mail it and clearly identify the sender on the mail. At this point a question arose if the submission would be anonymous. I knew one of the patent fillers and did not want to worsen relations with him. If I sent a letter with a faked sender from my current city and country and he saw it, he could still identify me. To ensure anonymity, I'd have to mail it to another country and ask someone to re-mail it to the USPTO for me. At this point, I gave up.

Re:Have to publish it in the right place (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27458191)

You call prior art if your idea, which you have published or implemented in some way, is patented by someone other than you. In this case you use prior art in a civil suit, and if you prove prior art the patent will be invalidated. If you are worried about proving prior art you can get what is essentially a temporary, but unproven patent (usually they are in the range of 5 years). This isn't an actual patent, but it is usually what has been taken when you see "Patent Pending" on something. Because this temporary patent has been filed with the patent office, in the case of a civil suit you can quickly and more easily prove you created whatever it is you created before the other patent was applied for.

In general you don't actually need a patent anymore, and even if you do certain countries don't actually respect international or foreign patents in the first place (China and Korea are two countries which will laugh at you if you bring patent infringement claims to them).

Re:Have to publish it in the right place (4, Informative)

foniksonik (573572) | about 5 years ago | (#27458081)

How about just publishing to Wikipedia? Seems like a place that a patent examiner might look when investigating prior art. Especially if someone also publishes an article on how Wikipedia is being used to publish "public domain" prior art and then adds a reference to examples which could turn into a big list of inventions...

If your patent uses a basic concept add a cross link to that article as well so that it's more likely to show up in a search on said concept and of course cross link to prior art to your own invention as well.

Re:Have to publish it in the right place (4, Funny)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 5 years ago | (#27458235)

That seems to be an interesting concept.

Just make sure that you have a reference site to point to for the Wikipedia entry.

Add some usenet postings too just for the sake of it. But I suspect that very few today does read usenet, so it may be better to put a reference in your sig here at Slashdot and then comment articles like a maniac for a while.

Re:Have to publish it in the right place (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27458265)

Pretty sure it'd risk being deleted as Original Research. Which is a shame, because I normally love wiki.

Original Research is often a good thing, but Wiki doesn't think so :(

Re:Have to publish it in the right place (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27458379)

Yes. It's very much the point in wikipedia that original research is not appropriate. It is an encyclopedia, not an academic journal. Start your own researchwiki, if one doesn't already exist, or something

Re:Have to publish it in the right place (2, Informative)

Asic Eng (193332) | about 5 years ago | (#27458319)

I think he should present at a reputable conference in his field. Not sure if Wikipedia is a good place for publishing original research - I was under the impression that's not the content they want. Also - if he publishes on such a conference the knowledge will be distributed to those able to make use of it, and it will increase his reputation - allowing him to become known, to add the publication to his resume etc.

Descriptive Documents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27458087)

I haven't looked lately, and the name may have changed, but the Patent Office has always had a provision for filing a "descriptive document" for which the fee used to be nil or nominal (a decade ago it was something like $35). This both "secures your rights for a year" and makes it public domain within the patent office registry if you fail to file within the required time.

File a provisional Patent (2, Interesting)

solder_fox (1453905) | about 5 years ago | (#27458137)

At $110 to file for a small entity, a provisional patent only costs a little bit. If you can't afford it and these are potentially useful medical devices, just go to a patient who would have benefited from it and ask for a little help, or go to a good doctor or med student and offer to let him or her write up the journal article *After* you file the provisional patent application. For that matter, I'm sure you can get five hundred or a thousand bucks from an undergrad in the sciences for the chance to write up something really medically useful, because they could put it on their apps to med or grad school.

IANAL, this isn't legal advice, and assume (as you should with every slashdot comment that could be interpreted as in a legal field) that I don't know what I'm talking about, but you can certainly write a little document saying simply what your agreement is with the person and sign it. There are a lot of people out there with at least a little disposable income--if you tell anyone who has a little money and who's experienced the pain of dealing with the medical system that you want to make a new medical device available for public use for free, you'll get the $110 for a provisional patent application.

If you also want a patentability finding and publication you can file a real utility patent application, but that costs a little more and the format is more rigid--you'd probably need a patent agent or attorney to help you draw it up.

I believe--but am not 100% sure--that the provisional application would handle the matter if it covers the subject matter of the patent.

Also, not to be silly about it, but did you try asking the USPTO what they would suggest? They know this stuff and it should just take them a minute to answer. Alternatively, one of the patients' rights or support groups might be willing to help.

Re:Have to publish it in the right place (2, Interesting)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 5 years ago | (#27458207)

If Robert Anson Heinlein [wikipedia.org] still was alive you could have asked him since he did put the concept of the water bed [opinionjournal.com] into public domain.

Anyway that was described back in 1934 and the publication of it in three of his books was enough to consider it prior art.

So even a limited spread of the data has to be considered prior art.

I suspect that if you read enough Science Fiction books you will be able to invalidate a huge amount of patents. Things may not be named the same, but they may be described sufficiently to work as prior art.

Practicality of defensive publication in a novel? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 5 years ago | (#27458485)

Anyway [a well-known fiction author described a water-filled bed] back in 1934

Not everybody is a well-known author.

and the publication of it in three of his books was enough to consider it prior art.

The point is to stop the examiner from even approving the patent, not to show prior art after the fact and run up a bill with the USPTO. So unless you know which SF author's books your particular examiner reads for pleasure, and that author takes suggestions for plot points (like a dispute over who gets to sleep on a waterbed), I don't see how defensive publication in a novel can be practical.

I suspect that if you read enough Science Fiction books you will be able to invalidate a huge amount of patents.

Just reading SF doesn't pay the USPTO's fee for reexamining a patent.

Re:JUST publish it, make it "prior art" (5, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | about 5 years ago | (#27457649)

Once something is published, it becomes "prior art" and someone else can't patent prior art and obvious extensions to prior art.

And also once you publish it, you can't file for a patent on it outside the US, and you can only file for a US patent within a year.

While in theory this is technically true, the reality of it is that filing a patent... even if you never intend to collect royalties or even sue somebody for patent infringement if you discover it in the future... is still the most viable option.

One situation I had with a former employer was an expired patent application that hung in our engineering conference room for years.... where the company was sued by a patent troll who had filed a nearly identical patent application for the very same concept and was claiming prior art. In that case, the troll was hosed (legally speaking) because prior art was clearly established and certified by the USPTO... showing that the patent was clearly invalid and forcing the judge to dismiss the case. The patent attorney hadn't even listed this prior patent as a disclaimer of prior art when a simple search of the patent database would have turned it up.

The company I worked for would have been taken to the cleaners if it wasn't for that patent which had been filed by an earlier employee. Yeah, it was fun to see first hand how valuable defensive patents could be... and it was even funnier to see that plaque temporarily be taken down as it was presented in court as prior art. Yeah, that step wasn't strictly necessary, but it made an impression on the judge as well that proved to be quite positive.

In this case, you need to use the patent system against itself just as the GPL uses the copyright system against itself. The patent system respects itself, but it doesn't think stuff created out of this environment is worth much.... witness some of the idiotic patents that have been filed such as one about ROT-13, one-click shopping, and the LZW algorithm. While all of these had clear prior-art in published journals (like ACM publications), that hasn't been sufficient to prove prior art in a legal sense, unfortunately, and patents were not only granted but enforced.

And no, I don't love the patent system (I wish it were completely abolished), but it is an unfortunate evil in today's engineering environment. I have yet to meet a single individual that I know personally or have been able to shake their hand who has made a single penny off of a patent, yet I know dozens of individuals who have had them granted and have even developed patent-worthy concepts of my own.

Filing the patent is cheapest and most reliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27458013)

Of course, you can also ask a notary to certify whatever method of publication you intend to use, but there are some major drawbacks. Firstly, sometimes courts only accept publications in venues which are deemed by some non-objective standard to have a wide audience. Expect to pay to be published. Secondly, the notary will want his cut. Depending on the specific details, this can actually cost you more than filing a patent. Thirdly, there is the international aspect to consider. Courts often don't assign foreign notaries any degree of trust, let alone the one they reserve for domestic ones, and could decide to simply throw out the certification, and ask you to prove that you weren't conspiring with the venue of publication. This can be very costly in terms of lawyer and court costs and there is always the risk that the judge will not just decline your prior art claim, but also think you have been lying to the court. In the end, I think if you do the math it will turn out to be cheaper, safer and more convenient to file the patent. If the invention can be applied as widely as you think you should have no problem convincing some other people to pay part of the application fee in return for a non-conditional patent licence.

Re:Filing the patent is cheapest and most reliable (2, Informative)

number11 (129686) | about 5 years ago | (#27458183)

Of course, you can also ask a notary to certify whatever method of publication you intend to use, but there are some major drawbacks. Firstly, sometimes courts only accept publications in venues which are deemed by some non-objective standard to have a wide audience. Expect to pay to be published. Secondly, the notary will want his cut. Depending on the specific details, this can actually cost you more than filing a patent.

Oh, come on. I'm a notary. If the notary wants more than a couple of bucks per copy, you need to find another notary. In my state, maximum rates are pretty much set by law, and any notary who tried to get "his cut" would be at risk of substantial legal penalties.

That said, IANAL but merely getting something notarized probably isn't going to count as "publication". The very word implies "public" distribution.

Re:JUST publish it, make it "prior art" (3, Interesting)

DamnStupidElf (649844) | about 5 years ago | (#27458025)

Additionally, the OP is going to *look* like a patent troll if he doesn't actually have a patent application in hand along with a free, non revocable license for it. Remember RAMBUS? They pushed their invention for everyone to use as an "open" standard, claiming it would be a great idea, and only afterward started hitting everyone up for money with their submarine patent.

Not patenting the original invention will also make it much easier for the first company who researches a cost effective implementation to obtain an over-broad patent on their method and process, which will practically cover the whole invention since there are no prior patents.

Re:JUST publish it, make it "prior art" (1)

flooey (695860) | about 5 years ago | (#27458061)

And no, I don't love the patent system (I wish it were completely abolished), but it is an unfortunate evil in today's engineering environment. I have yet to meet a single individual that I know personally or have been able to shake their hand who has made a single penny off of a patent, yet I know dozens of individuals who have had them granted and have even developed patent-worthy concepts of my own.

There are some industries in which the patent system works like it's supposed to. My dad was a chemist until he retired, and he generated a number of patents which have been really valuable to him and the company he worked for. It costs a lot of time and money to come up with chemicals that do interesting things, and patents makes it so that doing so is profitable.

Re:JUST publish it, make it "prior art" (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 5 years ago | (#27458457)

In this case, you need to use the patent system against itself just as the GPL uses the copyright system against itself.

That's funny, I thought the GPL used the copyright system to exert control over distribution and derivitive works. In a copyright-free system, there would be no way to require derivitive works to have their source code made available. Maybe you're thinking of BSD-style licenses, which effectively make the work as it would be if there were no copyright?

Re:JUST publish it, make it "prior art" (3, Interesting)

capnkr (1153623) | about 5 years ago | (#27457803)

And also once you publish it, you can't file for a patent on it outside the US, and you can only file for a US patent within a year.

Regarding "publishing": just to point out that the word publish in this context means:

"1 a: to make generally known b: to make public announcement of" (link) [merriam-webster.com]

not necessarily to produce something in the printed form.

So, once your idea gets into the public domain at all (regardless of any non-compete/non-disclosure agreements, even), that starts the patent-process clock ticking. Show it to a friend, and you have begun...

As nweaver notes, you'll have one year to begin filing for the patent process thru the USPTO, or you'll lose your patent rights.

Full public disclosure, and most importantly, a way to prove when that took place will establish prior art for anyone who would like to contest a patent application filed after that date.

No, IANAPL, but I have paid money to them for the understanding I have passed along here. ;)

Re:JUST publish it, make it "prior art" (1)

homey of my owney (975234) | about 5 years ago | (#27457837)

That's not entirely correct. Before publishing, you must file for a "provisional patent" which can be nothing more than a couple of paragraph description (on topic of course). You then have one year from the filing of the provisional patent, to file the actual patent application.

Re:JUST publish it, make it "prior art" (3, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | about 5 years ago | (#27457849)

Exactly, so publish the invention in detail in as many places as possible, the internet, etc, so that it is easy to prove that it is a published prior work.

If your invention is used successfully by someone, get in touch with industry publications, and see if they can pick up an article. The more places your invention is described in, the more clear it would be that a patent application for it is fraudulent.

Plus, you need publications, whether online or offline, in order for people in the industry to learn about the invention...

And also, possibly file for a statutory registration [uspto.gov].

Don't just publish the details of the invention itself, publish lots of ways the invention can be used, as many use cases as possible, including obvious uses, but especially important ones that might not be immediately apparent.

You don't just need to worry about people patenting the invention itself: you may need to be concerned about people patenting certain uses of the invention with something else or in certain situations, that they claim might be novel.

An example would be patenting the concept of "a card catalog system, but on a computer" (at a time when card catalogs have been around for centuries, and computers have been around for decades)

Of course if you describe as many of those use cases as possible ahead of time, and use language fully expressing the versatility of the invention, and making it clear that there are a lot of obvious uses, you might be able to reduce that possibility slightly...

Prior Art? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 5 years ago | (#27457477)

Wouldn't your invention constitute prior art in the event of someone patenting after you, thereby nullifying any patent?

Publish the invention (4, Informative)

Steve1952 (651150) | about 5 years ago | (#27457479)

You can put an invention into the public domain by simply publishing it and then failing to file a patent on it. The main thing here is to find a low cost forum that will preserve your publication for a long time.

Re:Publish the invention (3, Informative)

TooManyNames (711346) | about 5 years ago | (#27457633)

This would be the best way to go. Once you've published your work (assuming that your work doesn't infringe on other existing patents) it will be in the public domain and should constitute prior art. If someone were able to obtain a patent on your published work (the patent office can't check everything) it would be easy to overturn simply by pointing to whichever journal contains your paper. Moreover, the US gives you up to 1 year after the date that you publish if you (the inventor) later decide to file for a patent*.

*This does not hold in other countries

Re:Publish the invention (2, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | about 5 years ago | (#27457721)

This would be the best way to go. Once you've published your work (assuming that your work doesn't infringe on other existing patents) it will be in the public domain and should constitute prior art. If someone were able to obtain a patent on your published work (the patent office can't check everything) it would be easy to overturn simply by pointing to whichever journal contains your paper.

This is easier said than done. While this is a legitimate method of trying to protect yourself by publishing a concept on a blog or something else that is clearly available in the public domain, it still won't protect you from hard-core patent trolls.

I wouldn't claim this as the "best way to go", but it clearly is a much cheaper option than the better way, which is to simply file a defensive patent. Once your idea is in the patent system, you are under some sort of protection... and once you have been granted a patent it becomes much harder for somebody to patent a similar concept without significantly narrowing the scope of any future patent.

Re:Publish the invention (1)

alangmead (109702) | about 5 years ago | (#27457827)

This is why back in the day AT&T and IBM (still today) have publications like The Bell System Technical Journal, IBM Systems Journal, etc. It gives them platforms to publish the inventions that they don't wish to patent, but still show prior art.

Re:Publish the invention (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457875)

Just for reference:
"'Is not a sentence' is not a sentence" is a sentence...

Re:Publish the invention (1)

fishbowl (7759) | about 5 years ago | (#27458365)

"If someone were able to obtain a patent on your published work (the patent office can't check everything) it would be easy to overturn simply by pointing to whichever journal contains your paper."

An ounce of prevention is worth a hundred thousand dollars spent in a failed bid to overturn a patent in court.

simple (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457497)

Send me all the plans, complete details, drawings, and figures. I'll file everything for you and everyone will be happy.

Honest. Really.

The check's in the mail.....

Re:simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27458069)

The happy check?

Physical principles... (4, Funny)

homer_s (799572) | about 5 years ago | (#27457501)

mechanical devices, based on physical principles

Here [thinkgeek.com] is the invention.

Re:Physical principles... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457541)

This is the best invention ever! You'll make a million dollars!

Re:Physical principles... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27458093)

The top hat really adds an air of sophistication. Kudos.

eh...my invention is better. (0, Offtopic)

TrekkieGod (627867) | about 5 years ago | (#27458103)

Originally I was going to post an ascii art circle, followed by the phrase, "You know, for the kids [imdb.com]."

I could not get past the damn lameness filter (" Filter error: Please use less whitespace"), which has apparently gotten "better", because simply posting lots of normal-looking paragraphs later wasn't enough to override the "percentage" of whitespace, or whatever.

So now I'm forced to start a rant: why the hell is there a lameness filter? Doesn't the moderation system take care of the problem the filter is trying to solve, placing all the otherwise offtopic posts at -1 where no reasonable person will ever see them? And while on the topic of things that have gotten worse with time, what's with the new system that forces you to wait a certain amount of time in between posts? That's really annoying when I'm participating in a topic I know a lot about, and have a lot to say (ok, that only happens with Star Trek articles, but more knowledgeable people than I must run into this problem all the time).

Sigh...sorry about the rant. I had a post which I thought would be quite funny, with a reference that demanded more than simple text, and feel that I was robbed of the opportunity.

Re:eh...my invention is better. (1)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | about 5 years ago | (#27458151)

So now I'm forced to start a rant: why the hell is there a lameness filter? Doesn't the moderation system take care of the problem the filter is trying to solve, placing all the otherwise offtopic posts at -1 where no reasonable person will ever see them?

You obviously haven't been reading Slashdot long enough. Long, long ago, the slashdot comments were full of lameness. When the filter was implemented, all of the lameness disappeared overnight.

Sell you idea... with terms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457511)

I don't know of a way to protect it other than patents, that's what they are there for. Is it possible that the idea could be sold with terms that will not prevent it's widespread use, still get you some sort of creator credit on the patent, but still allow the investor to "more than make their money back". You hopefully could make a fair trade in both parties eyes.

Letter bomb campaign (5, Interesting)

darpo (5213) | about 5 years ago | (#27457517)

You could write an open letter to the major companies in the relevant industry (and make it clear that several companies are receiving the letter) explaining your inventions. One company may still try to patent them, but the other companies will have signed, dated, and carbon-copied letters from you stating prior art. Hmm, too far fetched?

Re:Letter bomb campaign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457933)

just go write about it and get feedback from other users at www.whynot.net or edit existing/start your own wikipedia article about the advance.

Re:Letter bomb campaign (3, Informative)

kinnell (607819) | about 5 years ago | (#27457969)

Prior art requires that the invention be in the public domain, not simply "thought of first". This means it has to be actually published to the general public. You and I could make the same invention independently, and try and patent it, and the one to get the patent would be the first to apply, regardless of who actually made the invention first. IANAL, but I believe that in your scenario, any one of the companies would be perfectly entitled to patent the invention.

You're gonna have to patent it (5, Insightful)

pnumoman (1348217) | about 5 years ago | (#27457529)

While publishing it, and making it prior art would be nice, the only way for you to totally place it into the public domain would be for you to patent it yourself.

Sure, in a technical sense making it prior art would bar others from patenting it, effectively placing it into the public domain. However, in reality, people could still apply to patent the invention, and the burden would be on them to notify the patent examiner about your prior art.

Guess how much that will happen.

So, assuming they don't talk about your publication, and the examiner doesn't know, they get a patent. Once that happens, then it's up to an enterprising soul to file an appeal with the patent board... and sure, the patent would probably be revoked, but it would take time and money. During this time, people would be afraid to use the patent, etc etc.

Since a patent is a right to exclude others from using your invention, the easiest way would be to talk to your local law school, see if there's any sort of IP clinic, and ask them to help you file the patent. They will probably have someone student that has passed the patent bar early, and can help you file as a patent agent. Then you would just pay the fee, get the patent filed for you, and some law student would get some nice experience. After you get the patent, simply let people use it for free.

But it ain't technically gonna be public domain (1)

essinger (781940) | about 5 years ago | (#27458467)

While publishing it, and making it prior art would be nice, the only way for you to totally place it into the public domain would be for you to patent it yourself.

If you actually patent the invention, then by definition it isn't public domain. A better answer that fits the requirements of the original question is to file a patent application, abandon it, then let the USPTO publish your application. That will put it into public domain.

Look at Patent Requirements (1)

LuckyJ (56389) | about 5 years ago | (#27457533)

I'm no lawyer, but looking at http://www.bitlaw.com/patent/requirements.html, if you publicly disclose the details of your inventions, the novelty requirement for a patent should be impossible to meet for anyone trying to patent your invention.

I guess the issue might be, what is sufficient to constitute "known to the public". Is this a blog? A website you set up to describe your inventions? I'm not sure.

Just post links here.... (4, Insightful)

ZosX (517789) | about 5 years ago | (#27457535)

All you need to do is publish your designs somewhere. Who knows maybe people may offer suggestions that will improve them. Open sourcing hardware is certainly something that has been done before. As long as you don't care if companies potentially exploit your ideas and not compensate you then by all means go ahead and make the world a better place. I admit I am mildly disappointed that you did not even share any details at all. Maybe your invention is really cool and now we may never know.

Why not GPL or something similar (2, Interesting)

beowulf (12899) | about 5 years ago | (#27457547)

Establishes the prior art, allows to the idea to benefit the public, and you can still receive compensation.

I'll take care of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457561)

Just send all your documents regarding your patent to me and for a low low fee 99.95 i can patent it for myself... I mean you, yeah, you.

Call Cory Doctorow... (2, Funny)

memorycardfull (1187485) | about 5 years ago | (#27457563)

You might discover that the answer is as simple as a handsome public domain patent cleverly constructed out of old paperback books.

statutory invention registration (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457565)

File a statutory invention registration with the patent office.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Statutory_Invention_Registration [wikipedia.org]

Alternately, you can file a provisional patent application, and then just abandon it by not filing anything else for a year.

Either of these will become part of the patent office's database and thus will be searched by patent examiners.

Re:statutory invention registration (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 5 years ago | (#27457755)

File a statutory invention registration with the patent office.

I wish I hadn't posted earlier, as this comment deserves to be moded up. IMHO the best idea posted yet and one that actually fits the requirements of what is being asked.

Kudos.... and it is unfortunate this is an AC post.

Re:statutory invention registration (1)

itamblyn (867415) | about 5 years ago | (#27458017)

PublicPatent.org [publicpatent.org]

If you register it here (free), the idea will ALSO be easily accessible to other people. I am the creator of this site, and I think that the author, like me, wants his ideas to be usable by the general public. Basically we are talking about the equivalent of linux for inventions.

Re:statutory invention registration (2, Informative)

cecil_turtle (820519) | about 5 years ago | (#27458465)

I checked out PublicPatent.org and clicked on the "Random Page" link a few times and it seemed to either go to what looked to be a page of spam for some "aaaoe" organization or a page of Chinese characters. All of the AAAOE.COM spam pages follow the same template with different keywords. There were a few other pages that looked like spam as well, I don't think I came across one legitimate article.

Cheaper to file and abandon (4, Informative)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 5 years ago | (#27458307)

Filing a Statutory Invention registration costs $920, with no discount for small entity. It's much cheaper to file an application and abandon it. Filing costs $330 or $165 for small entity (you are almost certainly a small entity). The filing fee can be higher if your application has a rather large number of claims or a complicated claim dependency structure. Here is the current fee schedule at the US PTO: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/qs/ope/fee2009january01_2009jan12.htm [uspto.gov]

Either way, you must conform to the required format for the filing. Special attention must be given to drawings, so that labels and textual descriptions in drawings match the associated descriptions in the text specification (and all drawings must have descriptions). Drawings may NOT be in colour, or employ shading to distinguish areas - only cross-hatching or other fill patterns are allowed. The application must be accompanied by copies of any references or prior art cited. This is to ensure that your disclosure will be interpreted in the correct way later, even if you abandon it. Before it is printed, there may be requests for formal changes.

I recommend you become familiar with the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/index.htm [uspto.gov]

Since we are talking about patent trolls... (5, Interesting)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 5 years ago | (#27457571)

Once they read about your invention, they would be legally obliged to disclose it to the patent office as prior art. So legally, they can't read it and then patent it. However since we are talking about patent trolls here, they can read it, write a patent application, don't tell the patent office about the prior art, forge papers demonstrating that they had the idea before you published it, and sue someone including yourself for the invention, and act very astonished if you show the prior art. Even with the prior art in someone's hands, it could cost them lots of money to defend against the case, even when they win. And whoever is sued might not know the prior art.

You could ask at the patent office, or someone here might know, how much it costs to _attempt_ to get a patent. In your situation, you don't need a patent. A failed patent application is good enough for you, because then it is prior art that is know to the patent office.

Re:Since we are talking about patent trolls... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457705)

It takes a bit of money to file a patent, and that doesn't include legal fees.

You really need a patent attorney, even if you are just going to publish it so it stays in the public domain. This is because, whatever you will write, will not be water tight in a legal sense. Then someone will improve your design in a way you didn't think of, or that you just missed, and they'll file a patent. Especially if your patent is good and really saves money, resources, etc. Somebody WILL patent it, because you can make so much selling such a patent.

At my work when we file a patent it'll go back and forth for over a year sometimes between the inventors and the patent attornies. This is in a research department too, where none of us on either side are strangers to such patents.

Re:Since we are talking about patent trolls... (1)

hankwang (413283) | about 5 years ago | (#27458359)

You really need a patent attorney, even if you are just going to publish it so it stays in the public domain. This is because, whatever you will write, will not be water tight in a legal sense

For disclosure, you just need to describe the invention in a way that someone else can understand. It is wise to mention as many possible variations on the invention and its applications as you can come up with.

You need a legally water tight description only if you want to file a patent, not if you want to disclose the invention. My limited experience with patent attorneys is that they don't really have the technical knowledge to come up with other applications of the invention than the ones that you present to them. The patent attorney's job is to phrase the description such that it is as general as possible without any overlap with existing patents or prior art. For the disclosure, you don't need to avoid such overlaps.

A good book to read is David Pressman, "Patent it yourself", ISBN 978-1-4133-0516-6.

patent trolls, defend by provisional patent appl.? (3, Interesting)

LarryPf (1524603) | about 5 years ago | (#27457797)

Greetings all, First off, this is my first post to /. so please bear with me. Also, IANAL; your mileage may vary! When I researched some ideas I had at a patent depository library, I was depressingly amazed by how many clever ideas I had, that others had already had (sometimes long before), and this was primarily US prior art. There are lots of clever, industrious folks in other countries, too. For the past ~30 years, the US patent office has been underfunded, and in consequence, the USPTO often doesn't do a good job of searching for prior art (they are under pressure to process a patent in something like 8 hours, AFAIK.) In consequence, the USPTO often grants patents for ideas that aren't novel at all. So, publication would not guarantee that a troll could not read your publication, and then try to patent it (as a previous commenter suggested.) I admire your desire to put your ideas out there, and I humbly suggest the following: Get ahold of the book _Patent it Yourself_ by David Pressman, published by Nolo press: http://www.nolo.com/product.cfm/objectID/139AEDE9-69A0-4810-A7A87D2AD5422664/310/ [nolo.com] Since one of your goals is to prevent others from patenting, then the "publication" that would really count is to convey your ideas to the patent office (in whatever country/ies) you want to prevent patenting. As a previous poster points out, even if your patent application is unsuccessful, it will be in those patent offices' databases, with an established date. I haven't followed the recent patent law changes, but I suspect that (in the US, at least) a provisional patent application might serve your purposes, and would be easier/cheaper. HTH, Larry

Re:Since we are talking about patent trolls... (1)

CajunArson (465943) | about 5 years ago | (#27457929)

As mentioned above, putting the invention in the Statutory Invention Registry is a low-cost way to publish the invention such that it will be covered in a standard USPTO search. While a patent applicant is required to divulge references to prior art that he knows about, there is no reason to expect every patent applicant to know the entire scope of the prior art... that's why every patent application includes a search fee where the USPTO conducts its own searches too!

What isn't based on physical principles? (1)

DogAlmity (664209) | about 5 years ago | (#27457603)

"mechanical devices, based on physical principles"

raises a mental red flag. This isn't another water-powered car is it?

Re:What isn't based on physical principles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457823)

"mechanical devices, based on physical principles" raises a mental red flag.

He's trying to distance himself from business method/software patents. Slashdot as a whole usually doesn't look to favorably on a business method or software patents, so if he didn't specify that it was a mechanical device, he'd get grief from a contingent of posters who thought he was talking about software patents. (Because isn't everyone on Slashdot supposed to be a computer programmer?) I interpreted the "...based on physical principles" to be an emphasis, meaning "yes, it really isn't a software patent. I'm not a dummy who thinks that adding '... on a computer!' suddenly makes an algorithm or business method a mechanical device."

A broader issue! (1)

jack_n_jill (642554) | about 5 years ago | (#27457655)

Publishing it on the net satisfies the "making it public" aspect of this issue. However the fact that internet publications are ephemeral, like everything on the net, poses a problem. How to prove publication on a certain date after it has disappeared.

I propose that some internet entity accept such publications and put them on the net. Someone like http://w2.eff.org/patent/ [eff.org] could put them up so there would be central location that could be searched for public domain prior art. This would establish the date and the content after the original vanished into the either.

Re:A broader issue! (1)

itamblyn (867415) | about 5 years ago | (#27457993)

I actually created a site for this specific purpose about a year ago.

PublicPatent.org [publicpatent.org]

It's a free service that inventors can use to "publish" their work so that it is in the public domain. When something is prior art, it cannot be patented.

The database is backed up on a regular basis, and the contents are burned to a CD that I post to myself so that dates can be verified if they ever need to be. It is a wiki style setup, where only the user who created a page can edit it. Images can be included in a page.

The site is searchable, and if it takes off (there hasn't been much interest so far), the plan would be to write a letter to the US Patent Office (and Canadian, where I'm from) explaining that this database should be included in searches when new patents are checked.

I have no intention of ever charging for this service, though eventually I may have to put some ads on the side to pay for hosting if it gets too expensive. A donation system may also be enough.

If there are others that are interested in this, helping with the site, or contributing patents, please get in touch. This is an idea that I came up with trying to avoid studying for my PhD prelim - it would be nice if something came of it.

Anyone ever tried 'buy free' patents? (3, Interesting)

Jasper__unique_dammi (901401) | about 5 years ago | (#27457661)

The idea is simple; invent something, patent it, and allow no-one to use it until someone pays the fee, but once it is payed, everyone can use it.

BEFORE you publicize it (5, Interesting)

pem (1013437) | about 5 years ago | (#27457669)

You could spend $75.00 filing a "provisional patent application" with all the relevant information.

Even though you don't plan on turning this into a real patent application, it will establish a baseline date AT THE PATENT OFFICE for your invention. Someone else would have to prove that they invented before that date.

You will certainly want to publicize it widely, for it to count as prior art, but having an official date from the patent office itself couldn't hurt.

Re:BEFORE you publicize it (1)

sir_eccles (1235902) | about 5 years ago | (#27457739)

This!

There is a huge misconception that patents are hugely expensive. The actual fees are relatively low for the initial filings and many are half price for small entities such as single inventors.

What is expensive is lawyers fees. But you don't necessarily need a lawyer, though many patent agents will offer no or low fee initial consultations or give your application a read through for a minimal amount. There are plenty of good books out there that can guide you through the process of making a provisional application. The most important thing is to include every single last tiniest detail in that first filing.

Once you have that, you are on a much more solid ground to go round to other people who can provide funding to take it to the next stage. And if you get to the initial application publication stage, it will be published for all to see (for all values of all that most importantly include patent examiners).

Re:BEFORE you publicize it (1)

al0ha (1262684) | about 5 years ago | (#27457985)

Creating the patent may not be that expensive.

What is expensive is protecting it; which has to be done aggressively against everyone who infringes on it. Few except deep pocket conglomerates can afford this aspect of patent law.

Re:BEFORE you publicize it (1)

fishbowl (7759) | about 5 years ago | (#27458439)

"What is expensive is protecting it; which has to be done aggressively against everyone who infringes on it. Few except deep pocket conglomerates can afford this aspect of patent law."

You have patent confused with trademark, and even the part of your confusion that is justified, is exaggerated.

The exaggerated high costs of civil litigation often come from cases where one party isn't clearly in the right, but is trying to persuade a court that they are. That does tend to be very expensive, and, rightly, often fails. No matter how much you pay your lawyer, it won't help you if another party comes to the table with real, clear, rock solid evidence.

You can believe what you want, but you could also talk to people who have been in litigious situations without it bankrupting them.

Post a link here (2, Insightful)

taskiss (94652) | about 5 years ago | (#27457671)

Put the drawings or whatever on a web page and link to it here. Not only will it get exposure, it'll generate discussion on the merits of the design.

As an aside, this reminds me of the crap article posted here not too long ago, with the only difference being that guy didn't want to share his great and wonderful idea.

Research disclosure (5, Informative)

An dochasac (591582) | about 5 years ago | (#27457719)

I've used Research Disclosure [researchdisclosure.com] publications which I'm pretty sure U.S. patent applicants are required to look through in their search for prior art.

Re:Research disclosure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457807)

From
http://www.researchdisclosure.com/publishing-disclosures/publication-rates

Publication rates

To publish in Research Disclosure you are charged a one off fee for each A4 or US letter page submitted for publication. The fee covers publication in both the paper Research Disclosure Journal and Online in the Research Disclosure non-patent prior art database.
Publication rates
US (USD) UK & Rest of World (GBP)
$120 Per Page £75 Per Page

Re:Research disclosure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457873)

US patent applicants aren't required to perform a search for prior art, but they are required to disclose anything that they know about that is material to patentability. I've heard stories that inventors are discouraged from looking for similar art, but that's just a rumor.

Don't patent it! (1)

Zackbass (457384) | about 5 years ago | (#27457761)

When getting started developing something usually the first thing people do is run a patent search to see if the idea is unencumbered enough even bother with. If you've got a patent sitting there most engineers are going to stop in their tracks, whatever your actual feelings about licensing it are. In my experience with engineers who are actually doing the development your patent will scare them away and chances are that your idea will languish until the patent period expires. Maybe if you can somehow fit into the claims the fact that your intend it to be public domain that would work.

First To Publish (2, Interesting)

AvitarX (172628) | about 5 years ago | (#27457765)

In the US we are a first to Publish country.

Make sure it is published, and easily findable.

Keep all of your notes with dates, this can go to demonstrate you had the idea before the publication date (evidence, not proof obviously).

By keeping it a secret you are guaranteeing others may patent it, such as what happened when the British government kept RSA a secret.

Since patents are still theoretically to spread, not hid knowledge, the system does not recognize secret knowledge unless theft of ideas can be demonstrated. If there is no idea theft (piracy may be a more accurate word, as nothing is taken away), then the first to enlighten the world with the idea gets its rewards, not the first to think of it.

File a technical report with your local university (1)

mikael (484) | about 5 years ago | (#27457781)

Contact your local university, ask them if it would be possible to file a technical report with a departmental archive... that's what all university departments do when submitting papers; submit the research as a technical report, then send it off for consideration for publication. Even if the paper is turned down, you still have the technical report filing.

I don't see the point. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457785)

Big companies can always afford to pay enough to either get a similar but differrently worded patent and just bribe the patent office. If you don't intend to make money off it, you're wasting your money.

Have a fund raiser! (1)

VChris (3817) | about 5 years ago | (#27457811)

If you are really serious about being open with it then I would consider asking for the funding to file the patent. Keep the patent for yourself and just publish it on the web with terms such as Creative Commons.

The funding could come from private donations. A dollar here, a dollar there type of thing. Post a donation link to somewhere like Slashdot with a suitable teaser (or teasers if you want to attract a larger audience - multiple teasers targeting different demographics will only increase the size of the donation pool).

A few possible teasers for Slashdot...for the young crowd you could talk about how your invention would enable every individual to pour hot grits down Natalie's front. The middle age may enjoy something about the .cx domain. The old ones (see my Slashdot ID number) would be into something nostalgic - old hardware like Z80s for instance.

Another good things about the public fundraising - Documentation to help with any prior art disputes...

Just blog about it (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 5 years ago | (#27457871)

What with Google and the Internet Archive that must consitute "publishing" your invention.

However in the, let's just say really "interesting" US patent system, I believe that someone else can read your invention online and patent it themselves within a year,

and then force you yourself to stop using your invention.

I could be wrong but that is my interpretation of the US rules.

Re:Just blog about it (1)

russotto (537200) | about 5 years ago | (#27457917)

However in the, let's just say really "interesting" US patent system, I believe that someone else can read your invention online and patent it themselves within a year, and then force you yourself to stop using your invention. I could be wrong but that is my interpretation of the US rules.

They could (and I've seen a few patents where it appears someone did exactly that -- there's even a recent one for a mousetrap that appeared in a very old advertisement). But that's fraud. Then there's the patent troll game where you file a bunch of vague patents, see what someone else does, and file a continuation which makes your patent cover their invention.

Notarize it! (1)

kallisti5 (1321143) | about 5 years ago | (#27457883)

A first good step would be to put it in paper in detail and have a notary public notarize each page with the date and your signature... that way if someone in the US gets a hold of your design you have proof when you designed it and that you did design it. Not sure if it's valid outside the US but it is cheap.

Put it into a PDF and HTML and make a website (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 5 years ago | (#27457931)

It's not that complicated.

You know your business well, so email the important parties and send them links to your site with the info.

If it's a good idea, and you are upfront about it being public domain, then people will use it.

RS

PublicPatent.org - free and "open source" (2, Interesting)

itamblyn (867415) | about 5 years ago | (#27457973)

I actually created a site for this specific purpose about a year ago.

PublicPatent.org [publicpatent.org]

It's a free service that inventors can use to "publish" their work so that it is in the public domain. When something is prior art, it cannot be patented.

The database is backed up on a regular basis, and the contents are burned to a CD that I post to myself so that dates can be verified if they ever need to be. It is a wiki style setup, where only the user who created a page can edit it. Images can be included in a page.

The site is searchable, and if it takes off (there hasn't been much interest so far), the plan would be to write a letter to the US Patent Office (and Canadian, where I'm from) explaining that this database should be included in searches when new patents are checked.

I have no intention of ever charging for this service, though eventually I may have to put some ads on the side to pay for hosting if it gets too expensive. A donation system may also be enough.

If there are others that are interested in this, helping with the site, or contributing patents, please get in touch. This is an idea that I came up with trying to avoid studying for my PhD prelim - it would be nice if something came of it.

Re:PublicPatent.org - free and "open source" (1)

Herve5 (879674) | about 5 years ago | (#27458323)

tried "show random page" on your site: looks like there are much more spam-ads than inventions, unless I'm very unlucky... You should consider a spam filter like Akismet for instance http://akismet.com/ [akismet.com]

Does Poor Man's Patent work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27457989)

I've heard of a way to use the USPS or Notary Public or some combination to make "official" documents of your prior art. Try Googling "poor man's patent" and see what is said in the results.

Sigh.. (1)

Meor (711208) | about 5 years ago | (#27458007)

I can't believe a question with a huge glaring hole in it got posted on the front page. If an invention has ever existed before and can be proven it can't be patented. This is what "prior art" is.

How much justice can you afford? (1)

smchris (464899) | about 5 years ago | (#27458079)

One of the "how to start a business" books I read a long time ago basically suggested, "You see an idea you like, manufacture it and work out the details later" -- which could range from a reasonable percentage of profits to bankrupting the pursuer in court costs. I don't think the latter is unknown. And what are the chances your idea could be exploited in Taiwan or the Mainland, and what are you going to do about _that_?

temporary patent (1)

Ofloo (1378781) | about 5 years ago | (#27458113)

The other day i saw a tv show where people had the same issue and someone on that show can't remember which one, suggested to file for a temporary patent which is about 150$ .. the domain contained something with gov that is all i remember.

Use IP.com (1)

cliffjumper222 (229876) | about 5 years ago | (#27458169)

I don't work for them, but my former employer (a major IC maker) used them all the time. $200 gets it published and printed in a journal.

Perils of public domain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27458173)

I would like to point out that one of the reasons for patents is to give a company an incentive to develop an invention into a product they can make money from. If you put an invention into the public domain, perhaps no one will feel incented to actually use it in a product. Of course this depends on the nature of the invention.

Marketing forever! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27458279)

This wouldn't be phase 1 of a multi-phase marketing push to lure people into investing in your perpetual machine ideas, would it?

shampoo? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27458361)

shampoo, is that you?

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