Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are there websites that list existing problems and seek inventors to solve these problems?

A: Check out the following sites: (a) Edison Innovations identifies latent market gaps using a proprietary system of crowd sourcing. These market gaps point to products and services people would buy, if they could; (b) Ninesigma , where research projects are listed and inventors are sought.

Q: What are the best free or price-effective resources out there to perform your pre-patent research?

A: Ideally, you should look at patent as well non-patent literature. For non-patent information, check Medline for biotech/medical (NCBI Pubmed database is great), Google scholar for other literature , etc. General search engines are also useful to locate relevant information like existing products. You can also outsource you research to prior art search companies. For patent information, you can search the USPTO site for US patents, and Espacenet is good for international, but it only searches the title and abstract missing a lot of important art.

Q: Does 100% of the idea belong to you, if you have discussed about it with a friend? How can you protect yourself? Suppose you casually discuss your idea with a friend and then apply for patent. Can this friend the claim any rights to your idea? What if he also informally suggested an improvement to your idea?

A: NDAs (Non Disclosure Agreements) are the key. If your friend invents and you intend on expanding your claim set to include the invention the inventor that contribute to the claim set must be included on the patent or your patent could be invalid. Agreement are also key if you are co-inventing. Sign a NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) and avoid discussing with people who you don't trust and/or people who are related to competing interests/companies.

Q: Can you patent an idea after you have built a demo web site to test the idea, and you have shared the web site with a few people? For instance, suppose you have an idea on how to help users to tag images, and you build a web site to test your idea, and you give the link to your Facebook friends to test your system and receive feedback. Could this be viewed as public disclosure? What if you make these users sign NDA forms?

A: The best authority for this question is here . Signing the NDA, by itself, is helpful but not sufficient. Since you are the applicant, you have the responsibility to ensure that those testers not only have intent but also the ability to restrict accessibility to the subject matter. In other words you must ensure that the internet tools they use are secure, etc. Publication on the internet is considered to be the same as a 'printed publication' in the traditional sense, whether intentional or inadvertent. (Answer provided by Leslie Virany)