Public disclosure is any non-confidential communication which an inventor or invention owner makes available to one or more members of the public, revealing the existence of the invention and enabling an appropriately experienced individual ("person having ordinary skill in the art") to reproduce the invention. In the U.S., public disclosure of an invention results in the loss of patentability of the invention after a period of one year. In other countries, public disclosure may result in the immediate loss of invention patentability unless a patent application has already been filed, and disclosure may be considered to include oral as well as written communication.
35 U.S.C. § 102 establishes various statutory bars to invention patentability with regard to invention novelty; these explicit bars preclude patentability as exceptions to a general underlying entitlement. The public disclosure bar is one of the bars established in section 102 (b):
"(b) the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States..."
"Printed publications" generally include all paper and electronic forms of publication. For example, books, scientific journals, posters, conference slide presentations, and website articles would all qualify as disclosure media.
- "Preserving Your Patent Rights - Protecting Your Ability to Get a Patent: What Counts as a Bar to Patenting", MIT Technology Licensing Office Website, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2006, retrieved August 30, 2012
- "A Guide to Patent Law - Publication and Patent Rights", Harvard University Office of Technology Development Website, President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2012, retrieved August 30, 2012