Dropout was a technique introduced publically in 2012 by Geoffrey Hinton. Notably, he and his research team filed for this patent in 2013.

I'm not sure how this is allowed. They did invent it, but they disclosed their invention prior to the patent application.

  • 1
    If this is a general question, which it appears to be, then it is on-topic here as well as on Ask Patents. (In fact, this answer seems to apply. Note that a patent application is itself publication of an invention!)
    – feetwet
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 21:35
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of File a patent disclosure after paper publication Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 22:01
  • I don't know if this is what I wanted to ask. I've noticed this idiosyncratic property among the ML community where they constantly patent after public disclosure.
    – echo
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 13:10

1 Answer 1


The general answer is no, you cannot patent an invention after it is publicly disclosed.

An exception exists in a few countries (notably the US and Australia, the relevance of which will come up shortly). In these countries, if a patent application is filed within 12 months of an inventor's public disclosure, the inventor's public disclosure doesn't count as prior art. This is called the "grace period".

The case you refer to is quite instructive as to how grace periods work.

The international examiner cited a few publications by the inventors as depriving the claims of novelty. In other words, the international examiner had the same view as you that the inventors disclosed their invention before a patent application was filed.

However, because this disclosure was within the 12 months before the application was filed, the disclosure does not count as prior art in countries where there is a grace period.

There is therefore a US patent application (and granted patent) corresponding to this application. This was not affected by the inventors' disclosures.

In addition, Google appears to have filed an Australian national phase application, ostensibly since Australia has a 12 month grace period. This is questionable though, since the first disclosure was dated 3 July 2012, but the Australian application is deemed filed on 23 December 2013 (the filing date of the PCT application, well after 12 months from the disclosure). I can only speculate that they misunderstood how the Australian grace period works, though of course they may have other reasons for filing there.

Notably, no national phase entry was filed in Europe, China, or any other jurisdiction without a grace period.

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