Protecting Your Idea With A Patent Isn't Cheap, Part 3

What do you do when patent costs don't fit your budget?

If patent costs are still beyond your budget, you have otherchoices. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) offersinventors two other ways to file and document the date ofinvention. Although these filings don't replace patents, theyoffer some legal protection. The first option is:

Disclosure document: You may file a disclosure document with thePTO that describes through words or drawings any aspects of yourinvention you wish to disclose. Each one-sided page must benumbered, any text or drawing must be able to be photocopied,photographs are acceptable, and no prototype may accompany thedocument. One original and one copy of the document must be signedby the inventor and sent with a self-addressed, stamped envelopeand a check for $10 to Box DD, Assistant Commissioner of Patents,Washington, DC 20231. No one reads this document; the patent officesimply keeps the original, stamps the copy with an identifyingnumber and date of receipt and then returns it to you. Unless thedisclosure document is referred to in a separate letter when youmake your patent application, the document will be filed in thepatent office for only two years and then destroyed.

Such a document does not initiate a patent application norprovide patent protection. It does, however, give you a legaldocument proving the approximate date of your invention. In theevent someone then files a patent application for the sameinvention, you still must demonstrate an earlier invention date andprove you did not abandon the idea.

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