Conference papers as prior art


Ron Kaminecki

Inventors love to talk about their work and what better venue than a meeting of like-minded researchers? But sometimes, inventors speaking about discoveries may find they’ve actually revealed more than they should have.

Bloviating about one’s work in a professional forum is one of life’s pleasures and a special reward for those seeking to inform others and also to learn from the inevitable questions presented by fellow technical attendees. Unfortunately, if the speaker says too much, it can work against any future patent filings for that invention. The key is whether the individual has disclosed sufficient information to allow another to replicate the invention without undue experimentation.

A picture of a time-travel machine may not be enough for a viewer to replicate the device, but an in-depth discussion of how a black hole was corralled and used as a power source may preclude the inventor from obtaining a patent for the device. Of course, if you did disclose too much information about your time-travel device, you could always set the controls to a time just before the meeting and warn yourself not to say anything!

Because no one has yet been able to redo a talk in the past, most companies require their speakers to have the legal department approve any presentations. However, looking for prior art in conference papers is a great way of finding background on an invention prior to filing, or the names of the inventors, or perhaps ancillary information about future markets, funding or even obstacles.

Prior art, inventors