Inventors know that obtaining a patent can be a lengthy and expensive process, with filing fees and patent attorney costs adding up to thousands of dollars. A patent is an intellectual property right issued by the United States government, granting the patentee exclusive rights to commercialize, sell, or license their invention. Unfortunately, the “first to apply” system means that the poor have no value in obtaining a patent, as it only matters who applied for it first and not who had the idea first. If you don't have the financial resources to go through the formal patent application process, there are other ways to protect your intellectual property. The “poor man's patent” is an informal method of protecting your invention without having to pay for a patent.
This involves documenting your invention in detail and mailing it to yourself in a sealed envelope. The postmark on the envelope serves as proof of when you created your invention.
Does a Poor Man's Patent Stand Up in Court?The short answer is no. Even with the old system, you cannot access the judicial system and ask a judge or jury to assert a right that the United States Government does not even recognize as such. The poor man's patent is not legally binding and does not provide any legal protection for your invention.
It is simply a way of providing evidence that you created your invention before someone else. The best way to protect your invention is to limit knowledge of it to those who have an absolute need to know it, such as the engineering team responsible for making it work or the patent attorney who helps you process it. If you are concerned about the cost of obtaining a patent, there are other options available such as provisional patents or crowdfunded patents.