1. Why Document Your Invention?
To protect your invention, documentation is vital. In order to prove that you are the inventor and that you were the first to conceive of the invention the idea, you must document this fact. There are several reasons why document is important:
Interference: If two people come up with the same invention and file patent applications, to protect the inventions, the patent will be granted to the inventor who invented first. The first inventor is the one who conceives and subsequently builds the inventor or the one who conceives and files the patent application. (The acts of building a prototype or filing a patent application is called 'reduction to practice). Documentation is critical for proving conception and reduction to practice.
Theft: if people attempt to steal your invention, the best evidence that stands up in court is documentation.
Inventor Confusion: When you present your invention to others, in a written format and have the other party sign and date the document. This eliminates confusion regarding the subject matter of your invention.
Prior Art References: During the prosecution stage, the Examiner in the U.S.P.T.O may find prior art references and use them to deny your application. If you can prove that the effective date of the prior art reference is after your invention date, you could force the Examiner to ignore the prior art references.
2. Do You Need to Build and Test the Invention?
No. As stated above, if two people file a patent application for the same invention, the U.S.P.T.O will award a patent to the first party who has conceived and ‘reduced the invention to practice.’ One way to ‘reduce the invention to practice’ is to build and test the invention. Another way is to file the patent application.
3. How to Record Your Invention?
Use ink and a permanently bound notebook with ample writing and drawing space. Sketches, diagrams, and written statements should be drawn and written directly in the pages of the notebook. Together, they should be clearly describe the invention and the required or optional explain parts used with the invention.
4. How Do You Witness the Notebook?
In the notebook, each page should be signed and dated by an unrelated witness.
5. Who Should You Use as a Witness?
The witness should be an impartial person such as a friend, co-worker, or business professional with technical ability to understand the invention. Do not use a relative or a co-inventor.
6. The Disclosure Document Program
Instead of using a notebook to document your invention, you could use the Document Disclosure Program (called DDP) provided by the U.S.P.T.O. To use the DDP, a Request furnished by the U.S.P.T.O must be completed and a $10 filing fee must be paid. All of these materials are placed into a first class envelope and sent to the U.S.P.T.O. The U.S.P.T.O will stamp and return one copy of the disclosure document to you which should be kept in your files. The U.S.P.T.O will retain the original document for 2 yrs.