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What’s a poor man’s patent?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2024 | Patent Law

Somewhat like the “poor man’s copyright,” the “poor man’s patent” is an urban myth that’s been around for just about forever. 

It’s a pretty simple idea: You invent something. To prove that you are the inventor and protect your intellectual property, you then create a written description and drawings of your invention – much in the same way you would for an actual patent application. Then you simply tuck all that information inside a sealed envelope and mail it to yourself. The unopened envelope becomes your “proof” of what you invented – and when.

Understand why it may not work

It sounds like an easy way to avoid the hassle of getting an actual patent, but there’s no legal validity to the process. 

The idea had its roots in the “first to invent” system that was once in use in the United States. This held that, whenever two people filed patent applications for the same invention at approximately the same time, the person who got the patent was the one who could prove that they created the invention first. 

In 2011, however, the Leahy-Smith America Invests Act (AIA) switched the system. Now, the first to file for a patent, regardless of who created an invention first, is awarded the protection they need for their intellectual property.

There is no viable way to cut corners with a patent, and mistakes with the process can be both expensive and disastrous to your intellectual property rights. Seek experienced legal guidance to help with your patent process and needs.