SIRs as Alternatives to Patents -- What Do YOU Think?

May 05, 2011

Thank you, SIR, may I have another?

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Did you know there is an alternative to the patent process?  It’s called an SIR – Statutory Invention Registration.  It is not a patent, but rather, a defensive publication in that it can be used to prevent someone else from getting a patent on your invention.  Like the old saying goes, “If I can’t have it, no one can.”  The catch is, once an invention is registered with the USPTO and published as an SIR, the inventor waives all patent rights to his/her invention.  Also, since an SIR is not a patent, it cannot be enforced because it cannot be infringed. 

Information on SIRs at the USPTO is pretty scarce.  The only reason I have ever heard of SIRs is because I started studying for the Patent Bar Exam last year, and SIRs was one of the topics.  A cursory review of the Independent Inventors webpage at the USPTO’s website did not reveal any information on this topic.  No mention of SIRs at the Inventors Assistance Center page either.  A search for “alternatives to patents” at the USPTO website didn’t turn up anything on SIRs. 

SIRs are not well known or used by independent inventors or small entities.  SIRs seem to be usually pursued by government agencies.   

Another way to “publish” your invention and prevent anyone else from obtaining a patent is by preparing and filing a patent application, and then “abandoning” the application.  However, it doesn’t make much sense to me for someone to go through the trouble of filing a patent application only to purposefully abandon it a year-and-a-half later.  Are SIRs viable alternatives?  As a small entity or independent inventor, would you consider obtaining an SIR on your invention?  Do you think it might be worthwhile to pursue in the event you are unsuccessful in obtaining a patent, or simply do not want to expend the time and money to get a patent?  Some might call an SIR a consolation prize.  What do you think?

- J.A2.


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