© 2002, Gallagher & Dawsey Co., LPA
The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) offers inventors a
little known method of recording evidence of the conception date of an
invention. This method is known as the "Disclosure Document Program."
The Disclosure Document Program is an additional tool that inventors
may use to evidence the date of conception of an invention. It is
important to note that the program does not diminish the value of the
conventional, witnessed, permanently bound, and page-numbered
inventor's notebook or notarized records as evidence of conception of
Not a Patent Application
A Disclosure Document is not a patent application and can never become
a patent application. Nor will the date of receipt of a Disclosure
Document become the effective filing date of a subsequently filed
Contents & Preparation
There are no formal requirements as to the contents of a Disclosure
Document. However, the adequacy of the disclosure directly affects the
benefits of the document. The USPTO recommends that the document
contain a clear and complete explanation of the manner and process of
making and using the invention in sufficient detail to enable a person
having ordinary knowledge in the field of the invention to make and
use the invention. Drawings or sketches should be included in the
Disclosure Document when appropriate.
The Disclosure Document must be on white letter-size (8.5"x11") or A4
size paper, written on one side only, and each page must be numbered.
Oversized paper, videotapes, and working models will not be accepted.
A separate cover letter signed by the inventor must accompany the
disclosure document. Additionally, the USPTO fee charged for recording
a Disclosure Document is currently $10.
Destruction & Not A Grace Period
Disclosure Documents will be kept confidential by the USPTO for two
years following their filing after which they will be destroyed unless
referred to in a separate letter in a related patent application filed
within the two year period. While the USPTO retains Disclosure
Documents for two years this period is not a grace period during which
the inventor can wait to file a patent application without the
possible loss of benefits. Additionally, filing a Disclosure Document
may have implications on the validity of later filed foreign patents.
Inventors should consult a patent attorney to ensure that important
rights are not lost.
Nothing Without Diligence
Lastly, establishing a date of conception is worthless if the inventor
is not diligent in reducing the invention to practice. An inventor
that is not diligent in reducing an invention to practice will not be
able to use the date of conception to antedate prior art or in an
attempt to invalidate third party patents. Please see this month's
article on diligence for further information on that subject.