Your intellectual property: Give it away, give it away, give it away now
If you’re a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you’re familiar with the infectious lyrics “Give it away, give it away, give it away now.”* If you work with intellectual property (IP), you should be familiar, though perhaps uncomfortable, with the idea of “giving it away now.”
Disclosing your IP seems counterintuitive – like you’re giving away your secrets. Why do you want the world, especially your competitors, to know what you’re working on? How does publishing a technical disclosure make any sense?
But releasing your IP to the public in a defensive publication is exactly the sensible thing to do for good, strategic, and cost-effective reasons: you protect your idea and prevent other companies from patenting it, leaving you free to practice it. That’s why it’s called defensive publishing. It’s proactive.
Much less expensive to produce than an approved patent, a well-written, well-placed defensive publication can help reduce patent filing costs and infringement risk profiles while protecting your organization against competitive patents and litigation.
Writing a technical disclosure article is the first step. But the whole point is to “give it away,” right? An effective defensive publication must be found and it must hold its own weight; it must be discoverable and defensible. This is mainly a function of careful, competent writing. Discoverable means the article is highly visible and searchable as prior art, allowing patent examiners to find and cite it. You want it to stand out in the category. Defensible means your publication is clear and well organized, so patent examiners and attorneys can correctly understand it without misinterpretation. You need to illustrate, as you do in a patent, that the idea is new, useful, and nonobvious. (And once this is published, you are the only one that can claim this – hence, the protection.)
When you decide to “give away” your innovations and prevent competitors from patenting it, take the following steps to ensure your IP is visible and justifiable:
- Know the patent examiners’ resources, and then publish there. Examiners user worldwide patent and prior art databases such as IP.com’s Prior Art Database. You might think it is enough to enter your innovation into the public domain through scientific conference presentations and papers, journal articles, product descriptions, and marketing literature, for example, but if you don’t publish where patent examiners search, then your signal will be lost in the sun – they will never see it.
By publishing your idea in the world’s most-frequently searched databases, you can prove the date and get your information in front of patent examiners around the globe. And when you publish to IP.com’s Prior Art Database, your disclosures not only appear in a searchable online database, but also in the printed IP.com journal.
- Write for a reader who has a working knowledge of the subject, but not necessarily for an expert. Describe your invention using language common in the art, so your disclosure will appear in every relevant search. You can start with any document that contains an enabling description of your invention or technology—including abandoned invention and technical disclosures, technical and white papers, product manuals, conference papers, presentations, and more—as long as it is well-written and well-organized.
Skilled technical writers use common but precise terminology, logically organize the content, and include enough detail to support enablement, while keeping the description at a higher level than a patent might. Sometimes, the author (i.e., inventor or potential assignee) remains anonymous. It’s an art, for sure. Luckily, when you publish to IP.com’s Prior Art Database, their expert technical disclosure copy editors can review and revise your document as necessary to make sure it is clear, thorough, and understandable—in other words, discoverable, defensible, and able to protect your IP, even though you are sharing your secrets.
*Give it away, 1991, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Warner Bros. Records