Keep it secret – Public Disclosure and Patent Validity
Disclosing your invention to others before you file a patent application is generally likely to invalidate the patent application. Consequently, it is important that you keep your invention secret until a patent application is filed. In some circumstances, disclosing your invention to a person may not invalidate the patent application provided that the person has signed a non-disclosure agreement.
The general principle is that an invention must be novel, that is new, because a patent can only be awarded if the invention is not public knowledge. The invention becomes public knowledge if even one person learns of it. In the case of the document describing the invention, if the document is placed where the public has access to it, the whole of the information contained in the document become part of the general knowledge. A description in an obscure publication would suffice to destroy novelty whether or not it was read generally by the public.
It is not necessary that the contents of the publicly available document be generally understandable by a member of the public. It is sufficient that an expert would understand the document. Similarly, if the document is in another language that will not change the public availability of it.
Similarly, samples of an invention given freely is considered to make the invention publicly available.
The invention will cease to be novel if a member of the public is informed orally, by a public act, or has access to a document disclosing the invention — no matter how obscure the location of the document.
In some countries, including Australia, the US, and Canada, certain types of patent applications may not be invalidated by disclosure provided that the time between the disclosure and the filing of a patent application is less than a period. This period is generally, but not necessarily, 12 months. It is not, however, advisable to rely on the period.