Writing an invention disclosure can feel like a tedious, unnecessary step for a busy R&D team. After all, what are IP professionals and patent lawyers for, if not to write patent applications that protect inventors’ intellectual property? However, the invention disclosure is an essential bridge between conceiving a potentially valuable idea and evaluating the best way to protect and monetize the resulting invention. Your invention disclosure serves as the start of the commercialization process. It documents the invention—including date, inventorship, and scope—for the first time.
What is an invention disclosure?
An invention disclosure is an internal document used to present an invention to a patent review committee, which will decide the best strategy (if any) for protecting this new IP. Depending on the type of organization, an invention disclosure may also help inventors secure grants or other funding. At this stage in the innovation lifecycle, documentation has been written by the inventor(s), who are subject matter experts comfortable with using jargon, confidential details, and detailed context.
Invention Disclosure vs Patent
An invention disclosure is different from a patent, as well as a defensive publication, in a few key ways.
- The invention disclosure is written for an internal audience, while a patent is publicly disclosed.
- The invention disclosure is written to communicate a novel idea, while a patent aims to protect the technology.
- The invention disclosure is written to persuade a patent review committee that the idea described is worth moving through the innovation lifecycle using defensive publication or patenting.
The invention disclosure often serves as the basis for a defensive publication or patent application and may follow a very similar structure, depending on the organization.
The Invention Disclosure Process
The invention disclosure process can vary from organization to organization. However, the general framework generally follows three broad steps: invent, document, and submit.
Before you can write down all the specifications of your invention, you have to invent it. While this is a vast simplification of the beginning of the innovation lifecycle, it is true! Documenting your work during this part of the process will make formalizing it in an invention disclosure when it’s ready for publication much easier. IP.com’s IQ Ideas Plus™ captures and validates ideas with an AI-powered novelty scoring system that helps inventors communicate the most important concepts of their new technologies. Our innovation suite also allows R&D teams to save and share their patent searches for seamless cross-team collaboration later in the innovation lifecycle. When your invention is ready for review, submit it to the appropriate person or department—before public disclosure.
Writing Your Invention Disclosure
Invention disclosures are very similar to patent applications and will often serve as the patent lawyer’s framework for the application. With this in mind, there are some must-have details, including a title for your invention and the name of each inventor working on the project. You’ll want to thoroughly describe the problem your invention solves and talk about how prior art fails to address this issue.
When it comes to describing your invention, create “bookends” to work within. First, write a description that defines your invention in broad terms, leaving out any and all unnecessary details. Then, write a description that defines your invention with as much specificity and with every option you can think of. Your final document should be somewhere in between these two descriptions.
Describe how the various components are structured as well as how they interact and connect—without including unnecessary details. Don’t leave anything out of the invention disclosure that is necessary to work the invention or distinguish the claim from the prior art.
Invention Disclosure Best Practices
When writing an invention disclosure, consider these best practices:
- Ask yourself if your project actually contains multiple patentable inventions. Consider creating multiple invention disclosures.
- Use “comprising” with an open list that may also include additional elements that are not listed in the claim.
- Use “consisting of” with a closed list. In this instance, no other elements are present in the invention. (This typically results in a very narrow scope.)
- Avoid inconsistent terminology. For example, do not use “car” and “automobile” in your application to mean the exact same concept.
- Eliminate context, results, and application use cases.