Public Disclosure Can Affect Patentability

It is recommended that investigators and researchers disclose their ideas to WARF prior to any public disclosure.

A public disclosure is any, non-confidential communication of an idea or invention. Contact one of WARF’s intellectual property managers with questions about your previous or planned public disclosures.

Public disclosures may include: conventional academic printed and online publications, abstracts, master's theses, Ph.D. dissertations, open thesis defenses, presentations, poster sessions, department and campus seminars, information posted online and publicly available abstracts of funded grant proposals. Grant proposal abstracts should be high-level and tailored to prevent unwanted disclosure. Grant applications typically are not made public, although grant final reports can be available to the public and would be considered a public disclosure.

The U.S. transitioned from a “first-to-invent” to a “first-inventor-to-file” patent system with the passing of the America Invents Act. In the U.S., an inventor’s public disclosure of their own work made less than one year prior to their patent filing date will not count as prior art. This is referred to as a grace period for the inventor’s own disclosure. Caution: The time window between an inventor’s public disclosure and patent application filing date allows others to publish similar work or work that builds off your own work. These intervening publications may prevent or hinder patentability of your invention.

If your public disclosure was made more than one year before your patent filing date, it is considered prior art and may prevent you from obtaining a patent.

In most countries outside the U.S. there is no inventor grace period and any public disclosure prior to filing a patent application filing can prevent you from obtaining a patent.

The rules mentioned above apply to patents. Different rules apply to copyrights, biological materials and other intellectual property. Call a WARF intellectual property manager if you have any questions.

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