Great ideas happen every day, but the idea, invention, or process isn't always credited to the person who came up with it first. Sometimes, someone overhears an idea. Sometimes, you're so excited; you'll tell it to anyone who will listen. And sometimes, believe it or not, someone else will come up with the same invention at just about the same time.
How do I protect myself against being scooped?
You cannot avoid someone publishing before you. However, if you want your research to be translated into public use, you should protect your idea from future competition. R&D takes money. As pure research grant funds decrease, researchers are discovering that commercialization of their work can generate new avenues of funding. The potential benefit is two-fold: your research can be translated for the public benefit and your research can continue to be funded.
Can I “apply for a patent” and still publish?
You have undoubtedly already published descriptions of segments of your research. However, at the point where it all comes together into a novel and non-obvious application, publishing this seminal paper (or presentation) gives away the rights to your work to anyone who wants to capitalize on it.
A quirk in the patent law requires that an inventor submit a patent application BEFORE disclosing their invention to the public. By filing a provisional patent application before publication or presentation of this seminal piece, you are protecting your research. The provisional patent application is not published, and can be modified as needed. Consider it a “place holder” should it be worth filing a full patent application with a year. Even if you are not sure of the eventual success of your application, it’s better to be safe then sorry.
Why should I Disclose my idea to UIRF?
A Provisional Application for Patent establishes your priority with a "date of invention." In other words, it tells the world "This is my invention." It's so important to file a Provisional Application for Patent because in patent law, the person who comes up with an idea first may not benefit. Most often, it's the person who takes action and files the patent application first who wins.
The filing is done by the UIRF on behalf of researcher. The UIRF will work with the researcher to draft a provisional application.
When to file a provisional patent application?
Provisional applications should be made before making a public disclosure. (Failing that, within one year of making a public disclosure to obtain patent protection in the limited number of countries offering the one-year grace period). Researchers should ensure that the UIRF is informed with as much notice as possible, ideally at least three months, before any upcoming public disclosure (or one-year deadline) in order that an informed decision can be made as to whether a patent should be filed and, if appropriate, a well-prepared provisional application can be filed.
If no public disclosure is imminent, the UIRF may decide to delay filing a provisional patent application in order not to trigger a 12-month decision deadline.
For a more complete review of Provisional Patent Applications check out: