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What is a Defensive Publication?

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A defensive publication is a public disclosure of details of an invention that is designed to prevent others from patenting ideas that a business may want to use in the future.

Prior Art

Prior art is a term for all information that has been disclosed to the public in the past. Generally speaking, it is not possible to patent inventions that exist in prior art. Ideas represented in prior art may also be used to judge whether an invention fits patent criteria for inventive step and non-obviousness.

Patents vs Defensive Publication

Patents are expensive to prepare and involve application fees. Defensive publication is used to defend secondary inventions that a firm may want to use but that are not viewed as valuable enough for a patent.

Trade Secrets vs Defensive Publication

Firms may be motivated to publish certain details of trade secrets in order to prevent patents. This can occur when a firm feels a secret will be difficult to keep. Firms may frame the defensive publication to disclose just enough information to prevent obstructive patents without disclosing key aspects of trade secrets.

Regular Defensive Publications

In some cases, large innovative firms publish regular technical bulletins or blogs that can be considered defensive publications. Regularly publishing ideas that are going into your products can be effective in preventing future patent issues. Naturally, intellectual property that's relevant to competitive advantage may be retained as trade secrets or patented.


A small bicycle manufacturer plans a new shape of pedal for their future products that may have advantages for cycling. They decide it is impossible to retain as a trade secret and isn't worth patenting. They publish a diagram and description of the pedal in a public blog post to prevent a competitor from patenting the idea.
Overview: Defensive Publication
Intellectual Property
Publishing ideas to the public to establish prior art that prevents competitors from creating patents that prevent you from using the idea.
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