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This section is in some sense a preliminary to Part 5: Protecting your idea . The dangers of disclosure are real, and need to be taken seriously as soon as you start thinking about your invention. But it is important to understand that protecting your idea against disclosure is not quite the same as protecting your idea against infringement.
Protecting your idea against disclosure depends largely on your own common-sense measures, which you should take from the day you first think of your idea. Protecting your idea against infringement depends largely on the correct use of formal legal procedures when the time is right to use them. This is why Parts 1-4 precede Part 5!
(An exception is Part 5 > Confidential information and non-disclosure agreements, which it may be helpful to read in conjunction with this section.)
Disclosing an idea without adequate legal protection is always dangerous. The main risks are:
In the very earliest stages of an idea, the problem for many inventors is twofold:
How then should you protect your idea in the early stages of its development?
Disclosure risks fall broadly into two categories:
You should be safe disclosing details of your idea to people whose professions require them to observe confidence in all dealings with clients. This includes patent attorneys, other legal professionals, EPO and national IP office personnel. It should also include public servants such as business or technology advisers and funding scheme administrators.
When dealing with anyone else - companies in particular - you should disclose nothing without at least (a) a signed non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and (b) free forms of legal protection in place, such as copyright or unregistered design right (detailed in Part 5 ).
You should try to avoid:
Few people will be willing or able to help you if you use such negative tactics. Instead: