You will lose your right to a patent if you fail to pay maintenance fees to the patent office, which ultimately results in the patent expiring.
For this reason, it is extremely important to keep your patent up to date and always inform the relevant patent office of your current mailing address to ensure that you continue to receive correspondence and fee information pertaining to your patent.
An inventor will lose the right to patent an invention if the inventor has disclosed the invention in a printed publication more than a year prior to applying for a patent. To be considered as an offending description, the description itself must be clear and precise so that any person who is skilled in the area of the invention could duplicate it based on the published material. On the contrary, a vague description of the invention will not adversely affect the inventor’s right in obtaining a patent.
If the invention was published in print within a year, it is then the responsibility of the inventor to apply for a patent as soon as possible before the twelve months expire as described previously. The location of the printed publication is irrelevant, meaning that the invention can be published in the United States or elsewhere with or without the according repercussions.
If the inventor offered the product or invention up for sale in the United States more than one year prior to the inventor applying for the patent, the inventor will, as a result, lose all patent rights. This twelve month timescale gives the inventor the time and opportunity to further test the market and perfect the features of the invented product. It is very important to note that during the twelve months, the invention needs to be completely functional rather than solely experimental.
An inventor can abandon an invention in a variety of ways; however, the essence of abandonment is that the inventor appears to have given up on the intent to patent and, as a result, allows the patent to lapse or fails to file the initial patent.
In the situation where the inventor chooses not to obtain a patent for the invention and rather conceal it, then there is not a timeframe to patent. If another inventor applies for a patent on the same invention, then the initial inventor immediately loses the right to patent only if the second inventor came up with the invention independently and in good faith.
An inventor does not need, nor is required, to patent an invention as soon as he comes up with the idea. However, all inventors should heed fair warning that delaying a patent on an invention may potentially leave you at risk.