As an inventor, you want to know the commercial value of your invention, and often, the best way to do that is by meeting with businesses, venture capitalists and others who are willing to partner with you to sell or distribute your product. But filing a patent immediately can be costly, especially if you’re still testing the waters of your market.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself during your research stages. When it comes to meeting with third parties, the confidentiality of your invention is paramount. If possible, it’s best to file a provisional patent application before discussing your invention with others, but if you can’t the next best form of protection may be a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

What are Patent Non-Disclosure Agreements?

A non-disclosure agreement, or confidentiality agreement, allows you to keep your invention confidential when it is discussed with others. This is particularly useful when trying to:

  • Research the commercial market for your invention
  • Find investors or business partners
  • License the manufacturing and use of your invention
  • Get industry feedback on your invention

Essentially, any time you’re sharing sensitive information about your invention, you’ll want to use an NDA. It’s important to note that this doesn’t replace having a patent filed, but it does reduce the chance that others will infringe upon your patent.

NDAs are most commonly used by inventors who have yet to file a patent, and therefore don’t have “patent pending” status for their product. It’s a good practice, however, to use NDAs at any point during the patent process in order to best protect your valuable ideas as much as possible.

If you didn’t have a patent filed and were to meet without an NDA, then disclosure of your invention would be to the public – in which case, you’d have one year to file your patent before it would be considered part of public domain.

Making the Most of an NDA

An NDA is a contract and is therefore subject to contract law, which is different than patent law. Contract laws vary from state to state, so you’ll want to craft yours to meet your state’s contract laws. In addition, you can often add a non-compete agreement to the NDA in order to extend your security even more, if it makes sense for your product.

The NDA is always furnished by the inventor, and if you are approached with an NDA from the other company, read it over carefully and consider consulting with an attorney to ensure its validity and scope. In most cases, NDAs are there to further protect the inventor rather than the businesses and entities he or she may discuss an invention with.

Patent Non-Disclosure Template

NDAs don’t have to be complicated, but they do have to be comprehensive, protecting the inventor and the invention as thoroughly as possible, while still allowing the third party to explore the invention’s potential.

A typical NDA template discusses the following information:

  • What information is considered confidential
  • What information is excluded from the NDA (not confidential)
  • Obligations and terms of use for the third party
  • Time periods, if any, that the NDA applies to
  • Uses and purposes of information about the invention
  • How disputes and other issues may be resolved

In most cases, the NDA is therefore a one- or two-page document that broadly covers the information about your invention. You can find patent NDA forms and samples online, but without drafting one specific to your invention, industry and circumstance, you may be missing vital areas of protection.

Instead, it’s recommended you contact a lawyer to create an NDA based specifically on your needs. The intellectual property law team can provide just that – superior protection for your assets.

Call JacksonWhite at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your Intellectual Property case today.

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