I recently (in the year 2018) read a Facebook post in which a non-attorney advised an inventor that he “must” immediately describe the invention and place it in a sealed envelope to get some protection for his Intellectual Property. What the non-attorney was getting at was the “poor man’s patent”, and, given the timing of this advice, it really took my breath away. I had no idea that anyone was still giving this poor advice, which seems to have some roots in Copyright law.
So, today, I’m stating clearly that the “Poor Man’s Patent” is as poor as it sounds, and I’m sharing a little of the history behind this poor advice.
Back in the old days, that is, before 2013, the US was a “first to invent” country, meaning that the first inventor had patent rights even if he or she was not the first to file. This resulted in a need for inventors to clearly document exactly when they invented something. In a fast-paced world, a few weeks can mean the difference between a patent and no patent, so it made sense to document, date, seal, and mail the documents to yourself to establish the date of invention.
Today, however, the US is a “first inventor to file” country. This means that the first inventor to file an application for patent is entitled to the patent, even if somebody else invented the product first. This is more in line with other countries, and brings more predictability to the system by relying less on “secret” dates. Meaning, in turn, that a Poor Man’s Patent is not really a thing.
Naturally, I need to make is clear that inventors should always clearly document their inventions along with the dates. Even in a First To File world, an inventor can make and use his or her own invention even if another patents the same invention, so it is a good idea to show that this is, in fact, the case.
Feel free to give me a call at 720-845-5500 to find out more about how to protect your rights.