More importantly - do they work?You have an invention (app, design, method, system) and you’ve held it secret for a long time. Now you decide that you want to patent the invention so that you are able to market a product or present your invention to potential investors, or you just want to be able to freely discuss it in public.
How do you know who to trust? Do you need a Confidentiality Agreement?
The first line of protection is that if you ask an attorney or agent to prepare your patent application, they have a duty before the courts and the law, inherent in their profession, to keep any information you share with them confidential. There are serious consequences for legal professionals who breach this confidentiality that can affect their right to practice, oftentimes more serious than may be found in agreements themselves.
Nonetheless, often clients do want something in writing to solidify that the details of their invention will not be disclosed to anyone else.
Here’s the downside – most confidentiality agreement are standard forms. What this means is that the terms in the agreement that you will most likely sign have not been customized to your particular needs or situation. To get a customized confidentiality agreement put into place has a cost involved in itself – if you are working within a budget this is something you want to think about.
You'll definitely want a confidentiality agreement when the person or company you are dealing with does not have legal obligation to keep your information confidential. Here are some examples where a confidentiality agreement is highly recommended:
- Before you talk to an app developer about your idea to get a quote or seek out their services.
- Before you submit drawings to a draft person to draw up your figures for the application or CAD for manufacture.
- Before you take a proposal to an investor or potential business partner.
- Before you take an idea for further development with an expert or specialist in your field.
- Before you talk to anyone other than a lawyer, patent agent or firm about your invention for any reason.
‘Before’ is key here - the agreement needs to be signed before any discussions commence anything you disclose prior to this may not be bound by confidentiality. Yes, you need the agreement in place to talk about the proposal even if the proposal doesn’t go through or you don’t end up using the services of the business.
Remember after you file a patent application, your patent is pending, so filing in itself affords a certain level of protection since others can't predate you.
Unfortunately in reality, if someone really wants to go out of their way to breach a confidentiality agreement they will. Fighting back will involve long litigation times and costly processes. Its best to trust a legal professional who has a good reputation and get your idea filed as soon as possible – filing is your ideal form of protection that will allow you to talk about your invention.
When in doubt seek legal advice about your particular situation.
Learn more on obtaining a patent for your invention in our article: "Patent Law Basics 101: Protect your invention."