Once you’ve decided to protect your invention with a patent, then the most common question asked is when should I file my patent application?
Fortunately, deciding when to file your patent application is an easy decision, as the patent laws are very specific on the timing of filings. For example, the primary factor in determining when to file your patent application is whether or not you intend to protect the invention outside of the United States.
If your invention is the type of invention that you plan on filing for patents outside of the United States, then it’s absolutely necessary for you to file your patent application before you publicly disclose your invention. The reason for this is the vast majority of countries outside of the United States have a patent process in place that prohibits you from filing a patent if you have publicly disclosed your invention prior to filing. As such, in many countries if you disclose your invention prior to filing the patent, then you forfeit your patent rights in that country.
If your invention is the type of invention that you only plan on protecting inside the United States, then the patent system is a little bit more lenient. In this situation you have to file your patent application with the United States patent office within one year of the first public disclosure of the invention. So if you only plan to protect your invention in the United States, you can show your invention to friends or businesses, sell it customers, show it to possible buyers, etc. and not lose any of your US patent rights as long as you file for your United States patent within one year of the first time you publicly disclose the invention.
Another aspect to consider in this process is that disclosure of your invention under a nondisclosure or confidentiality agreement do not qualify as a public disclosure under the patent laws. For example, if you would like to show your invention to a potential manufacturer, then you can both sign a nondisclosure agreement and then show the invention to your potential manufacturer and this does not qualify as a public disclosure under the patent laws.
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