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Should you patent fast or publish fast?

I’m often asked this question: is it better to file for a patent quickly or publish your idea quickly?

Let’s start with what’s included in a publication. When a government patent office talks about “publishing”, it includes any possible way to make your idea public. Publishing is a really broad term—it can mean that you released your app, you gave a TED Talks, you put up a video on YouTube, you made your idea accessible on your site or an article was written about it on TechCrunch.

Talking about your idea privately is different. For example, if you’re in a meeting which is invitation only, and you indicate that the talk is private, then it shouldn’t count as a publication. But if someone who was not specifically invited can wander into the meeting, then it may count as a publication. Even having a private talk in a public place – like on a shuttle bus at a conference – could potentially count as a publication. Basically, don’t take chances with your idea. If you’re going to publish, do it fast – but be careful to protect your idea.

The US patent system favors filing for a patent quickly or publishing quickly. Why? Because only the US patent system offers you two ways to quickly protect your idea.

If you publish quickly, you block others from being able to file for a patent for your idea. Publishing your idea quickly also will give you one year to file for your patent – but only in the US. You are blocked from filing a patent outside the US. 

This one year grace period is only for you and only for what you publish. If someone publishes an idea that is related to yours, but includes more details, then you’ll be blocked from protecting those additional details. You need to publish a lot of details about your idea in order to protect yourself for one year through publication.

Plus, the one year grace period is absolute – there are no extensions. If you fail to file your patent in the US before the end of the grace period year, you lose all of your rights to get a US patent. 

Filing for a patent quickly gives you the most protection and better opportunities. You can also file outside of the US. For example, if you might want to file for a patent in China or Europe, then you have to file your patent before you publish. Filing for a patent enables you to protect as much as possible of the details contained within your idea. So all in all, filing for a patent quickly is more important than publishing your idea.

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