“Don’t disclose your invention or you’ll lose your patent rights!” This is the type of advice that you will typically get in a coffee shop, or over a beer around 5:30 in the evening before you head home. Is this true?
Well the answer really is, “Yes and no.” How can this be?
The answer is that you will lose your patent rights in Europe and countries generally that adopt a standard of “absolute world novelty” as a requirement for granting a patent. I like to describe this as requiring that an invention be “pristine” in order to qualify for a patent grant under this standard. But you will not lose your patent rights in Canada, and not in certain other important countries, simply by disclosing the invention yourself. At least, you will not lose your patent rights immediately.
At least four countries in the world — Canada, USA, Australia and the Republic of South Korea — provide an unqualified one-year grace period to excuse public disclosures made by an inventor (or applicants claiming rights under an inventor meaning assignees). A number of other countries, such as Japan, do have grace periods but they are often limited to six months and in some cases only protect certain types of disclosures. All countries around the world are required by an international convention to give a period of protection against an applicant’s own disclosures where the disclosures occur at a recognized international exhibition, according to Paris Convention Article 11.