Patents: what you need to know

How can I use confidential disclosures?

In principle, disclosures made in confidence do not become part of the prior art that is taken into account when deciding whether a subsequent UK or European patent application is new and non-obvious.

For example, discussions with your patent attorney or solicitor do not become part of the prior art because of the obligation which they have to keep information concerning your invention confidential. However, you should only disclose information about your invention to anyone other than your patent attorney or solicitor after they have signed a suitable written confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement.

Even making a disclosure under a confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement can entail risks. The risks include, but are not limited to, the risk that if someone breaches the confidentiality agreement it could prejudice your patent rights. It may be hard to know, let alone prove, who has broken confidentiality and it may be harder still to obtain suitable redress from them.

The careful use of confidentiality/non-disclosure agreements can enable you to work on the commercialisation of your invention whilst minimising the risks to the scope of your patent protection. However, you should proceed with care and take professional advice first.

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