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I am currently low on money and have no way of paying for a patent on a new device I have designed. However, I wish to spread my idea to a few others who may be willing to help me grow the concept and eventually develop it into a real thing.

In order to make sure that no one runs off with the idea, I have been considering using an NDA. While these are useful for large software firms with very specific modifications, a few of my changes that I have proposed are on the broader side. Thus, I was hoping that before I gave them the NDA that a few people would be able to look it over and help me determine if the proposed information that would be protected by the NDA is "too broad/vague."

Since I will not state the actual information that I am looking to protect with my NDA (for obvious reasons), I will give you the general idea of what I would be trying to protect. The description you hear is on par for both the level of detail and the level of originality the real device has. Imagine it being the same thing as the real one, but with different words.


"My new furnace doesn't use coal like most furnaces, instead, it uses chemical X. Moreover, chemical x is bonded with arsenic and turned into a molten fluid, which allows me to burn up the mixture 50% more efficiently. While molten fluid furnaces have been proposed, they've never used chemical x in them before.

Once the chemical x is burnt, helium is bubbled through at pressures around 5,000 psi to get the waste to become a gas, that way it bubbles out. It can react with magnesium to make a solid substance for disposal. Helium is known to react with way with most substances, however, I am the first to apply it to a liquid chemical x-arsenic waste mixture for the purpose of removing it from the furnace.

The heat produced by the furnace is taken to a ultra-pressurized sodium gas and sent to a vanadium turbine system. After this turbine system, it immediately goes to whatever needs to be heated up. This process for exchanging heat from the furnace to the target has been used before and is well known, but never when used with a molten fluid furnace before."


While most of this was not in legalese, it does give the general idea of how much detail I currently have about the design/concept as well as how original the concept is.

The thing I would be protecting is how all of these different parts would be used to make chemical x into a usable furnace fuel, not all of the little parts. I would like to stop people from taking my idea of "using a molten fluid mixture" for getting heat from chemical x and making their own furnace out of it. Since it is pretty general, I will keep the period to 3-5 years.

Thus, would this concept be something that I could protect using a unilateral patent/employee NDA?

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There are two issues - one is you do not want your disclosure to constitute a public disclosure as it related to patent law; the other is you do not want your idea taken by someone else. The first is easier - if you trust the people. They just need to agree, even verbally, that the information is confidential and is not a public disclosure. The second is harder

Very generally - The NDA can just say that they will keep confidential certain information you would like them to know for purposes of evaluating your ideas for purposes of deciding to enter into a business relationship with you, for example. The NDA itself can just mention the topic - A system of using a molten fluid furnace to drive a turbine and to also provide heat.

Separate is what you then tell them and what you provide in writing, if anything. Many NDA "forms" are set up so anything verbally disclosed must be followed up in writing that is marked a certain way to indicate it constitutes a disclosed under the agreement.

Professional venture capitalists, as an example, do not sign NDAs but expect to hear enough non-propriety information about the invention and the people behind it to make a decision about a level of interest. Then they might send you to an actual technical expert who will sign an NDA in order to learn enough to advise the VCs on the technical credibility.

  • Are there any trade secret laws in his jurisdiction that can protect his patentable despite no nda? – Shazamo Morebucks Aug 20 at 1:43
  • You can keep something a trade secret (requiring that you take care to actually limit who knows the secret and to otherwise work to preserve the secret) and someone else can independently invent it and patent it. Trade secrets within an organization would be covered by an NDA or general company policy. – George White Aug 20 at 17:15
  • @GeorgeWhite Is there any clause that I can add to an NDA in order to effectively state that information that I had disclosed in the past is now covered by the NDA? Could I do something like include a clause that states that any idea about molten fluid furnaces I have ever come up with is my intellectual property and cannot be used with my consent? – Super Nerds Team Aug 20 at 20:25
  • if this is something for a potential partner to sign, it couldn't be anything you ever came up with - at most it could be anything you ever told them. As I put in my answer there are two issues, actual secrecy and the issue of public disclose. If you told someone with out any acknowledgement of confidentiality it was arguably publicly disclosed for purposes of patent law. The fact that they didn't tell actually anyone else may not matter, for purposes of breaking novelty. This is a complex area and you will not learn everything you need to know via answers at this site. – George White Aug 20 at 20:37
  • @GeorgeWhite My communication with the party that has heard the confidential information prior to signing the NDA had been over a person-to-person direct messaging system where others are not intended to see direct messages. Could I potentially have the individual sign a separate contract stating that all of our discussions on the direct messaging application were intended to be confidential? – Super Nerds Team Aug 21 at 3:06

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