Washington - The Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will eliminate its Disclosure Document Program on February 1, 2007. The USPTO implemented the Disclosure Document Program in 1969 to provide inventors not ready to file for a patent with an alternative method of establishing the date of conception of an invention. In the United States, priority for a patent goes to the person who is first to invent rather than to the person who is first to file a patent application. The date of conception is important in establishing who the first inventor is in the event another inventor applies for a patent for the same invention.
Under the Disclosure Document Program, the USPTO accepts, dates, and retains for two years documents from inventors describing their inventions as evidence of the date the inventions were conceived. Very few inventors have used the Disclosure Document Program as part of the patent process, and some inventors who do use it erroneously believe that they are filing an application for a patent. In the over 3 million patents issued since 1976, only 1,330 (or 0.04 percent) reference a disclosure document.
Since 1995, inventors not ready to file a full patent application have been able to file a provisional patent application with the USPTO. A provisional application provides more benefits and protections to inventors than the disclosure document. A provisional patent application establishes a filing date and allows the term "patent pending" to be applied to the invention. A provisional application must contain a full disclosure of the invention, including drawings where necessary, and a cover sheet identifying the inventor(s). To maintain the priority date, a formal patent application for the invention must be filed with the USPTO within one year. A disclosure document is not an application for a patent and does not provide any benefits beyond establishing a conception date.
For more information, see the Federal Register notice: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/notices/71fr64636.pdf.