Intellectual property / liability
I sent myself a certified letter containing drawings, measurements and details for a new product that I was researching to potentially patent and manufacture. The certified letter has gone missing, the post office has a log that they delivered it to the UPS store where I have my mailbox. The UPS store says that they did not receive it even though the mail carrier from the post office has a signature indicating that one of the UPS store staff received it. I am afraid that the horse could be out of the barn with my idea, as whoever gets hold of this letter has the ability to manufacture this product and potentially patent the idea. What can I do at this stage? I do still have scanned copies of the product that I e-mailed to myself as well and the certified mail receipt.
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: Intellectual property / liability
First, the certified letter, aka the poor man's patent, affords you no legal protections. At best, the certified letter is evidence of the date of conception. The date of conception is key here in the United States because we are currently a first to invent nation, not a first to file nation. However, depending on the fate of the 2009 Patent Reform Act, we may be a first to file nation shortly.
Therefore, rather than relying upon your date of conception for purposes of priority, the best mechanism to afford yourself priority rights is to file a provisional patent application. A provisional application affords you a 12 month window in which to file a non-provisional application. Failure to file your non-provisional application within 12 months can result in abandonment of your invention depending upon the stage of its development in comparison to the final embodiment at the time of filing your non-provisional patent after the 12 month period.