Software patents may be dead in the US. If you are interested in patenting something else, here are some notes I've passed on to others regarding patents:
Email correspondence is a good way to document the flow of your thoughts. Also, a technical notebook (like the hard cover journals that engineers such as myself carry around) is admissible court evidence... that is one reason engineers carry them. Date each entry. If reconstructing some past events, state that in the notes. Some people get important entries countersigned by other participants and witnesses. Your diary / log should contain:
- Technical notes
- Meeting notes (location, people attending, time and date, subjects discussed)
- telephone accounts showing when you spoke to someone with regards to the invention
- receipts for work done, purchases made and profession fees
- travel expenses (including driving)
I keep an private web site (on my local machine) with a complete set of resources regarding patentable ideas I'm working on, back it up to CD and store it offsite periodically. Included in the CD is product marketing information about the product, technical details, source code, photographs, algorithms, documentation, etc.
- Main US Patent web site: http://www.uspto.gov/web/menu/pats.html
- Provisional patent applications: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/provapp.htm
- Patent searches (for prior art) can be done online at:
- US Patent office 1 (800) 876-9199
- NDA's prove that you are maintaining secrecy - keep original signed copies, and give the signatory a copy as well.
- Mark all correspondence and documents that you generate that are supposed to be secret with a notice to that effect ("Confidential - a trade secret of xxx.")
- Patents prevent other from creating similar inventions, even if for their own private use only.
- Working models are not required for a patent, however a working model is indeed a good idea
- Patent applications are conducted in strict secrecy
- Patent applications are examined in the order in which they are received
- A patent application must be made within the 12 months prior to it becoming available to the general public.
- A provisional patent is only good for one year
- Worldwide patenting (expensive) must be done within one year of getting a US patent
- The actual patent must be worded by an experienced patent attorney if it is to stick
- Here is another important patent-related link: http://teas.uspto.gov/indexTLT.html