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Can patent attorneys steal your idea?
Patent attorneys are among the trustworthy professionals since it is in their best interest that they see your invention meet the desired heights. Most inventors have been made to grapple with the misguided thought that a patent attorney may for some reason steal an idea and make it their own. Nothing can however be far from the truth since ethical duty to a client restricts a patent attorney from stealing an idea or disclosing any information about an innovation.
Theories that bring the misguided idea
Some inventors have been made to believe some theories that suggest there is a grey area that patent attorneys can exploit to steal your idea. For instance, when an inventor simply calls in to get some basic information about the patent process and the fees associated with the same, should they be considered a client for simply enquiring? The theory being peddled is that technically, they may not be regarded as a client and that is what provides the grey area since a patent attorney may be ethically bound to a client but not obligated to keep the information about an enquiry confidential.
Another theory being peddled is that patent attorneys are also professionals in other fields and it is possible to find mechanical engineers and computer scientists practicing patent law. Due to the patent attorneys being professionals in other disciplines where they may actually be cream of the crop, an idea that comes to them within the niche they have specialized in may be at risk since they may opt to stela and pursue the idea.
Demystifying the myths
On the first theory, it has to be noted that patent attorneys, like other law professionals, have a duty of confidentiality to the client and may not divulge any information they receive. It is actually in state law that confidentiality is paramount to the practice.
On the second theory, it is common knowledge that inventors have unique ideas hence their name. The vision that an inventor may have with their idea may not be so obvious to the common individual which means a patent attorney that even attempts to steal an idea may fail with it miserably since they may not understand the vision.
Possible steps of action to idea theft
An inventor should get a lawyer to draft a Non-Disclosure Agreement and then take the same to a patent attorney to sign before initiating a conversation which will now make sure that any information shared remains confidential.
In researching whether there is a case where an inventor was denied a patent due to disclosing it to a patent attorney, nothing came up and this was highlighted by the fact that most inventors chose to protect their invention by recording their ideas and noting them in an Inventor’s notebook. This is a notebook that details all the progress you make with your innovation. The progress to be noted includes the diagrams and data that is pertinent to the idea.
Another way to ensure no one steals your idea is to get a provisional patent which you can apply by yourself without a patent attorney in place. Once a provisional patent has been filed, a “patent pending” notification will be your protection whenever you reveal any information to patent attorneys and any other parties that you think may provide any input that may be relevant to the development of the idea.
The bottom line is that federal rules demand that the information a client provides to a patent attorney is kept confidential. This means that a patent attorney, even without being notified of the same, is obligated to keep the information and only use it to benefit the client and not themselves or any other secondary party.
An important fact to consider is that patent attorneys are not your competition in the sense that they are not looking to expand on account of your idea but are rather looking for ways to further their patent law careers and your invention is only a way for them to grow in the practice. They are better served if they file your patent and its successful which means they will get recognition for it rather than try to steal it and face endless court battles.
If however, in an unlikely event, a patent attorney attempts to steal your idea and make it their own or divulges information about an invention in order to attract some gain; the step to take is to contact the Bar Association. Afterwards, it is crucial that you find another attorney to seek litigation against the unscrupulous patent attorney. You can also contact the patent office to report any malicious attempt at stealing your idea. The consequences are dire for any patent attorney who even entertains the thought of stealing an idea since they may be disbarred and may even face jail time and additional fines for the crime. At pandapatent.com, you can get more resources on patent attorneys and what patent law is all about.