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Mar 202019
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Debunking the “Poor Man’s Patent Myth”

Myth: If I write down my invention and mail it to myself through the USPS, I will receive some level of patent protection on my invention. (In some versions of the myth, I will receive protection only if I do not open the envelope).

This is the Poor Man’s Patent Myth and is truly a myth. US patent protection is granted only to those who receive an issued US patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Moreover, the US switched to a “first-to-file” system in 2013 under which-in the event two applicants file for patent protection on the same invention-the applicant who files first is given priority. This is why some refer to obtaining patent protection as being, in part, a “race to the patent office”. There are, of course, some narrow exceptions to the “first-to-file” rule (e.g., the earlier-filer derived the invention from the later-filer); however, in any event an application must be filed with the USPTO as a prerequisite to receive patent protection.

Prior to the switch to “first-to-file”, the US was under a “first-to-invent” system. Under the “first-to-invent” system, a later-filing inventor could obtain priority over an earlier-filing inventor who filed for protection on the same invention if the later-filing inventor could show he/she was the first to conceive the invention and meet certain requirements (e.g., diligence to reduction to practice). Today, however, most inventors are working under the “first-to-file” system (i.e., the law under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act). Therefore, best practice is likely filing a patent application early.

If you have an invention you wish to protect, contact one of the attorneys at Woodard Emhardt. Writing down your invention is a good exercise, but don’t believe the myth that mailing it to yourself gives you patent protection.

This is not legal advice, nor should it be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. If you wish to have either with our firm, please contact one of our attorneys to begin that process.