Is it possible to patent an invention that is already known to others?

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One of the main requirements to obtain a patent is that the invention not be known to the public.  This prevents people from patenting inventions that are not special and unique to the inventor.  Therefore, it is important to keep an invention secret until you’ve had a chance to discuss patenting it with an attorney.

However, there are cases when an inventor must disclose his or her invention to third parties before obtaining a patent.  These third parties might include business partners, employees or contractors.  To ensure that the disclosure to these third parties does not result in the invention being ineligible for a patent, the inventor should take the necessary step of having any third parties privy to the invention sign confidentiality agreements.  Having a strong confidentiality agreement in place with every party that knows about the invention ensures that the invention will be protected and cannot be denied a patent due to public disclosure.

If you have questions about confidentiality agreements for a new invention, please contact our office for a legal consultation.