The issue of public disclosure is a frequent concern for inventors looking to obtain patent protection. While it may often be safest to wait until at least a provisional patent application is filed before having any discussion regarding the invention with a third party, it is often not practical. Is the idea of waiting to discuss with a third party until a patent application is filed an overly cautious practice? Consideration of what actually constitutes a public disclosure and the factors that courts take into account illustrate that avoiding any and all discussion of the invention may not be necessary.
Summary: While the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) brought sweeping changes to the United States patent system, including moving to a first-to-file system and implementing and modifying a number of post-grant proceeding options, one less heralded change is the expansion of the third party preissuance submission process, by which a third party can submit prior art references in a pending U.S. patent application for consideration by the examiner. The revised preissuance submission process is significantly more robust and accessible than its pre-AIA counterpart. Key features of the process such as low cost, anonymity, and preclusion from estoppels make it a potentially attractive tool for challenging pending applications. However, a third party’s participation in the patent prosecution process is still limited and the submitted references may even inadvertently strengthen any patent that issues from the application in which the submission is filed. Accordingly, third parties should carefully consider the limitations and risks associated with the process before filing a preissuance submission.
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