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I have an Invention ... Now What?
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   Dating prior art by getting a copyright?
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   Author  Topic: Dating prior art by getting a copyright?  (Read 389 times)


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Dating prior art by getting a copyright?
« on: Nov 9th, 2007, 1:46pm »
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I am developing a standard for marking up educational material which I believe is significantly different from all other methods and will revolutionize education throughout the world. (Of course, that's what they all say.) The standard is called "Distributable Educational Material Markup Language." You can Google it if you want more information. I intend to eventually get a "social patent" to protect the standard from being taken over by big companies and "proprietary-ized." I will then license the patent for free as long as certain conditions of openness and adherence to the standard are met.  
The standard is still in development and not sufficiently complete to write any kind of decent patent. It will be some time before I can do so. I have a web site but I have been careful not to reveal any specifics that would allow anyone to duplicate the invention so that it won't count as having "published" the idea. However, I will need to reveal quite a lot of the idea to many people in the process of my development and research. I know I can make them sign non-disclosure/no-compete agreements to prevent them from using my idea. But I expect that some of it will leak out anyway due to the open nature of the academic community.
I have been advised by a someone who handles the IP for my university that I should get a copyright on my design-notes as they exists now, in order to prove the date of my prior art should anyone try to steal my idea before I can get it finished and patented. So here are my questions:
1) Will getting a copyright on my design notes be the equivalent of "publishing" my idea and therefore start the one year clock of the time limit for me to file a patent?
2) If not, will it really be of any benefit in proving prior art?
3) If it will prove prior art against someone else getting a patent on my idea, then wouldn't it then serve as prior art for someone else who may later try to invalidate my patent?
4) What is the preferred method of protecting an idea of this sort when the process of completing the design and filing a patent will take a long time?  
As I am not interested in profiting from this idea, I would rather see it fall into the public domain than be patented by someone else. However, I am convinced that a combined strategy of patent, copyright, and trademark protection is the best approach to preventing this standard from being hijacked by some big company for profit. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance
Grant S. Robertson
P.S. I have already checked with the university's IP department and they will not claim rights to my idea because A) It was invented independently, B) Any help I get from professors will only be advisory in nature and will not contribute significantly to the invention itself, and C) There is no money to be made.  Therefore, I don't need advice about how to keep my university from laying claim to the invention.
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Re: Dating prior art by getting a copyright?
« Reply #1 on: Nov 13th, 2007, 11:28am »
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Without fully addressing all of your questions, some of which may have complicated answers that I at least don't feel comfortable addressing -  
Note that what may trigger your one year clock within the United States might straight up prevent you from obtaining a patent outside of the United States.
Note that if your invention is not yet complete enough to write a "decent" patent (or to have someone else write one), then I would have to conclude that you haven't invented anything that is patentable (at least by way of a "decent" patent) and hence you shouldn't yet be concerned with preventing anyone from patenting what you have invented.  If this doesn't sound right to you, then perhaps you do already have something that is patentable.  Just because you moved to file a patent now does not mean that you couldn't file more patents at a later date which pertain to the same invention.  
It might make sense to document your progress on the invention to help protect against potential future claims against you if you feel thats a concern.  As far as your best option to do so, I am not sure whether filing for a copyright registration would be a better option than, say, taking what you have and getting it notarized.  
Generally, defensive interests aside and without attention to your exact invention and your exact circumstances (present and future), your best option(s) for protection would be patents and/or secrecy.  And don't ignore trademark law - it would seem to me that branding will be important to your success.
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