As of February 1st 2007, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will no longer accept submissions under its Document Disclosure Program. This is a program that once allowed information on an invention to be stored on file with the U.S. Patent Office. Disclosures were kept up to two years for a fee of $10, at the request of the inventor. Submissions that were filed before February 1st 2007 will be kept on file at the USPTO for the full two-year period, however, regardless of when they were filed.
Many people were already aware that this was a powerful tool for independent inventors, as well as seasoned professionals. I understand that the U.S. Postal Service saw a much larger-than-normal volume of mail to the USPTO in the days leading up to the cutoff date. I personally submitted four disclosures during that time.
The Document Disclosure Program (DDP) had always been intended to serve as a preliminary step toward an eventual patent. It was never intended to provide any protection on its own. The DDP may have been given notoriety by companies who would use it unscrupulously. Many uninformed inventors have undoubtedly been duped into relying on the DDP, and consequently funneled into a vulnerable position with their intellectual property.
As it stands now, the U.S. Provisional Patent Application is the most accessible form of protection through the USPTO. The filing fee for a provisional is currently $100. This is a bit more than the old fee for the DDP. And, a provisional application requires much more detail than a document disclosure did. Yet, even a provisional application must be followed by a utility patent application within one year.
As a substitute for the DDP, I will accept disclosure documents, review them, recommend necessary changes (if required), and keep them on file for two years, at no charge. If you are interested, simply contact the Affordable Patent Service about your idea. If you like, a non-disclosure agreement will be forwarded to you promptly.