If an inventor comes up with a technology that could benefit humankind and instead of keeping it for themselves they decide they want to make it freely available to all, what would the legal process be for securing a patent for it that would make it public domain (like open source software, but for technologies that could be patented)?

And how can this be made to be honored internationally, so that no individual or company can claim ownership of it? That is to say, any individual or company can use it because nobody can own it.

Tesla is said to have "open sourced" some of its patents. But after taking A Closer Look at Tesla’s Open-Source Patent Pledge, it seems it is instead pledging not to bring lawsuits against companies that infringe on those patents. This is of course not quite the same thing as making the patents public domain.

So now I am wondering: Is there any way to legally declare a technology as belonging to everyone?

It occurred to me that maybe the Creative Commons licenses are flexible enough to be used for technologies as well, but I'm not certain. I've only seen those licenses used for creative works, and since no filing is required, the process seems a bit different than the patenting process for technologies.


1 Answer 1


Publish it

Once an invention is in the public sphere it is ineligible to be patented.

  • 1
    Is that upheld in all countries? Also, as a way of explicitly letting others know it is not patented and free to use, is it best to somehow mark it, for example as CC-0, or perhaps simply with the words "public domain"?
    – Mentalist
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 5:05
  • @Dale M That is true after all grace periods have expired. An invention can be published and then a patent application can be filed in the U.S. up to a year later. Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 20:09
  • @GeorgeWhite yes, but only by the inventor who, in this case, wants it to not be patented so would not file a patent
    – Dale M
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 20:11
  • @Mentalist other than during a statutory grace period no country allows patenting something that has been published. As a practical matter the patent examiner needs to find the publication in their search. An obscure publication might not be found. Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 20:12
  • @DaleM - A third party doesn't know that the inventor intends not to patent it and therefore would need to wait until the year is up. Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 20:21

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