When you’ve come up with a new invention, and you need some help developing it – whether it be the designing, prototyping, or manufacturing of the invention – you need to use an NDA. Non-Disclosure Agreements are a crucial way to protect the secrecy of your invention. If your invention is revealed to the public, you can lose the ability to patent your invention.
Companies are frequently nervous about being approached by an unsolicited inventor. Large companies especially – worrying that they may have a similar product in R&D – will be concerned that they could be slapped with a lawsuit if they take a look at your invention, decline it, and then later produce something through their own independent R&D. This happens more often than not – it is sometimes a technique used by small companies to grab money from a larger company. Big companies’ solution to this problem is often just to refuse outside ideas completely.
However, if you are able to break through the no-solicitation barrier, get an NDA. Find an attorney to draft one, or piece one together from forms online (and cross your fingers). An NDA, at its most basic, should address what information is confidential and what is not. It should address the binding power of the parties, how a dispute will be handled if one arises, attorney’s fees, jurisdiction, and what forms of relief might be available. Other provisions may be added depending on the technology, the size of the company you’re approaching, and other factors.
If your invention is revealed to the public, you start a ticking clock that expires in one year. After that year, you won’t be able to get a patent on your invention in the US. In other countries, the rules vary; in most nations, any pre-patent-application disclosure can prevent you from patenting. An NDA is one step, along with others, that will help secure your ability to get a patent.