Invention = disclosure. At some point every inventor who wants to commercialize an invention must make disclosures. These disclosures may be to the patent office, to business partners, to attorneys, or to manufacturers. Even if you seek to protect your invention under trade secrecy law, you will need to disclose it to others under the protection of a nondisclosure agreement.
Attorneys and disclosures. There is no reason you must disclose your invention at your preliminary meeting with your patent attorney. But if you retain this attorney, you will have to disclose your invention. Otherwise the attorney cannot properly assess its value and the protection it requires. Your communications with the attorney are privileged, meaning that unless you authorize publication, the attorney cannot disclose what you say. (BTW, USPTO rules establish confidentiality requirements for patent agents.) One situation in which you must make a public disclosure is if a patent application is filed. Unless you do not plan on filing foreign applications, your U.S. patent application will be published eighteen months after you file. Alternatively, if the patent is granted, it will also be published.
The trick with disclosures ... We believe that proper precautions should be taken when making invention disclosures. Maintain your information with secrecy and only disclose it under the protection of privilege, or nondisclosure agreements. But, perhaps more importantly, try to use personal radar to determine whether you can trust those to whom you have made disclosures. For example, prolific inventor Maurice Kanbar had a strong 35-year relationship with his patent attorney, Mike Ebert. In his book, Secrets from an Inventor’s Notebook, Kanbar wrote:
“Most basically, you need to be able to communicate with your attorney. I can call Mike on the phone, describe my idea and detail its mechanics and Mike will ‘get it’ instantly and start writing it up. If an attorney has a different understanding of your invention, or if he or she doesn’t quickly get your drift, go elsewhere.”