Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Protecting your Ideas without a Patent

One does not always have enough money to protect all the ideas with a patent, and not all the ideas meet the criteria for patentability.

I recently came across the Public Electronic Document Dating List (PEDDaL), which can be used to get an extra layer of protection for your ideas when you can't or don't want to patent them.

When to use PEDDaL

Here are some use cases of PEDDaL:
  1. You have an idea, you want to disclose it to a company or person, but you are concerned that this company or person might attempt to claim the idea as their own.
  2. You have an idea, you have no intention of disclosing it (it's a trade secret), but you are concerned that another company or person might disclose the same idea in the future, and then sue you for trade secret theft or patent infringement.
  3. You file a patent application and identify an improvement, but have no money or interest in filing another patent that covers the improvement. Still, you want to avoid that someone else does file a patent that covers your improvement. 

The Idea behind PEDDaL

In all the use cases mentioned above it's vital that you can establish the date upon which you had the idea. 
So, how does PEDDaL help you prove that you had the idea at time X? The process is very simple:



When someone challenges you

Your best defense in all the use cases mentioned before is to be able to establish the date upon which your idea was conceived. PEDDaL helps you helps you prove this. So, what happens if you get into a lawsuit with a company over your idea?

This is what you can do:
  • You and the company agree on a neutral third party arbitrator or mediator, or else, if a lawsuit has been filed, the judge appoints one.
  • You give copies of the zip file containing your description of the idea plus the PEDDaL® disk containing the generated record to the third party.
  • The third party independently creates a record from your zip file, and finds a matching record in the PEDDaL® database edition on the disk. That means the documents must have existed prior to the creation of the database edition that is on the disk, and also that the documents have not changed even the smallest amount since that date.
  • The third party goes to the local library to retrieve a copy of the newspaper from the archives. The record he's created matches what he finds in the newspaper at the library. That means the database edition must have existed prior to the newspaper publication date, and also that no new PEDDaL® records have been added to the database edition since that date.
  • The third party concludes from the previous two points that you had the idea prior to the newspaper publication date. 
  • The company, unable to challenge your defenses of prior development, drops threats of a lawsuit. Or alternatively, even if the company is rabidly insistent on a conspiracy of theft, the company will be unable to find any law firm that is willing to risk its own financial interests by taking the case on a contingency fee.

Is PEDDaL Secure?

  • My record is publicly distributed. Can someone reverse-engineer it and get to my secret idea? No, generating a record from a zip file usually implies losing information because the record is much smaller. Moreover, the hash functions SHA-512 and SHA-1 are designed to scramble all the bytes of information in your file so that it's impossible to reconstruct your documents from your record. 
  • Can anyone create a record R, send it to PEDDaL, then wait for you to have a great idea and try to create a document describing your idea that precisely generates the same record R so that they can pretend to have had the idea before you? It's possible but so extremely unlikely that it's completely ridiculous to think of it as a security threat.
  • Does the whole thing work even if PEDDaL ceases to exist as a company or if it's not trusted by the third party? Yes, and this what's great about the solution. You can use any publicly available implementation of the SHA-512 and SHA-1 hash functions to generate your record. This means that PEDDaL cannot maliciously alter their record generating software for any purpose, because it can be easily double-checked. Moreover, you (not PEDDaL) have the CD with your record, and the third party can check the local newspaper records to establish the date of your idea, even if PEDDaL does not exist anymore.
  • How do I know if this is really going to help me when it comes to a lawsuit? PEDDaL was made by legal experts. That's why their web page doesn't rock, but it's also why you can be sure that their solution will protect you in a lawsuit. 
The process is flawless, but if you think otherwise, the guys at PEDDaL are willing to give you money if you are able to find a security problem. Just contact them regarding the challenge they have proposed.

Conclusion

PEDDaL is an affordable, secure and easy way of protecting your ideas whenever you don't have the money for a patent or your idea doesn't meet the criteria for patentability.


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