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I have an idea with which I may someday make a startup. I can talk about it with experienced people, over public emails for example. However, I wonder if from patent point of view this is safe. My concern is from two separate perspectives:

  1. Publication, for example, can prevent a later patent if I understand correctly. However, this is over, for example, Gmail, and would not go into much details about it.

  2. Since I am at the moment employed by a company, even though the idea originates from myself, it seems that I should quit my job first in order not to have my current company have any claim over my idea. I wonder if later one says, "looking at your email, you seem to had this idea when you were employed by X company, so even if you filed a patent after leaving this company, X can still have claims on your idea."

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With respect to the first question, discussing an idea in a non-encrypted email is not a publication that forfeits the right to patent an idea, even though it is not 100% secure.

In the same way, talking about an idea for a patent with your patent lawyer in a secluded booth of a coffee shop in person does not constitute publication of the idea for this purpose, even if someone is secretly spying on you at the time.

Since I am at the moment employed by a company, even though the idea originates from myself, it seems that I should quit my job first not to have my current company have any claim over my idea.

It is possible that the contract makes even ideas that you come up with yourself while employed by the company the property of the company. If so, you are legally in the wrong and the idea belongs to the company. But, proving the reality that you are stealing the idea from the company is harder if there is nothing in writing.

An email discussing an idea while you are employed would have to be disclosed in litigation with your employer over whether the patent applied for belongs to you or to your employer under an employment agreement. If you didn't put it in an email, it wouldn't exist to turn over in litigation.

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  • But if I quit the company first, and then after some research on the idea independently or in a university file a patent for it, the company cannot have any claim, or?
    – Alejandro
    Mar 1, 2023 at 21:00
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    @azerila It depends upon what the contract says. There is a lot of variation in how this particular term of an employment contract is drafted and it is quite a contentious matter in contract negotiations. There is also variation in how these contracts are interpreted and enforced under state law.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 1, 2023 at 21:06

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