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Trade Shows and Patents: What are the Implications?

What do Trade Shows have to do with Patents?

With upcoming trade shows such as the Consumer Electronics Show (“CES”), startup and enterprise companies, alike, are often in a rush to display their latest innovations, but often to their own peril.  Many countries in the world have stringent rules regarding public disclosure of an invention prior to filing for patent protection.  For example, if someone has a booth at the CES today, and gives a sales pitch that is recorded for social media, that recording becomes problematic for the filing of a patent application in most countries of the world tomorrow.  In essence, that recording will be deemed to be “prior art” – yes, even though it is not someone else’s idea – against filing for patent protection in most countries a day or more after the trade show.

Interestingly, the United States is one of the few countries that does not abide by such a stringent standard.  In certain circumstances, which should be thoroughly discussed with a patent lawyer, the United States allows for a one year grace period after the public disclosure at the trade show.  However, the United States abides by a rule called “first to file,” which presumes that the applicant that files for a patent application before anyone else is the actual inventor.

Going back to the CES example, suppose person A shows his or her innovation at the CES without having previously filed for patent protection in the U.S.  At the CES, person B sees the demo given by person A and likes the idea. Looking at the various booth materials (product packaging, brochures, etc.), person B is unable to find any mention of the phrase “patent pending,” thereby leading person B to correctly deduce that person A has not filed for patent protection in the U.S.  One week goes by, and person B has unscrupulously rushed to file his or her own patent application for the very idea that person A came up with! Person B has secured the first filing date. Months later, person A files for a patent based on the idea disclosed at CES, but he or she has gotten the second filing date, behind person B.  Although person A came with the idea first, person B filed first; therefore, in the U.S., person B is presumed to be the inventor of the idea. And person A could face an uphill battle trying to remove that presumption.

How do I avoid the patent pitfalls of trade shows?

The clearest way to avoid the foreign and domestic patent problems associated with trade shows is to file a patent application before going to the trade show.  A registered U.S. patent attorney can help you prepare a detailed patent submission to the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) so that you have can comfortably, and confidently, disclose your idea at the trade show of your choice after the patent filing.  In essence, the patent lawyer can help you get “patent pending” status, which you will be able to place in your demo materials (signage, brochures, packaging, etc.) at the trade show. As a result, any would-be-copiers may think twice before just trying to copy the idea you worked so hard on bringing to light at the trade show.

Finding the patent attorney before you attend a trade show

Patent Ingenuity is a patent law firm dedicated to preparing and filing high quality patent submissions to the USPTO at a rapid pace.  Even if your trade show is only weeks away, a registered USPTO patent attorney at Patent Ingenuity may be able to help you get your invention protected before you attend a trade show.

For more information, please contact the Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, or Newport Beach offices of Patent Ingenuity today to schedule a consultation with a patent attorney.

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