A press release has just been sent out by the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys warning of the dangers in giving away details of your invention.
The Ideal Home Show is celebrating 100 years and so for its annual exhibition it is hosting a competition called InnovationNation. The ten most promising inventions that are sent in will be "showcased" at the Show in March, at London's Earl's Court. Only UK residents may apply. Adam Hart-Davis, who has hosted many science-related programmes on television, will be involved.
The press release is in fact Hart-Davis' own plea that the entrants do not lose their rights. Sending in details of an invention that hasn't yet been applied for as a patent is, to put it mildly, inadvisable. This is called "disclosure" unless done in confidence, such as the recepients filling in a non-disclosure form. This hardly applies to all those watching the show. Steps are being taken to ensure that the inventors' rights will not be lost.
In my experience private inventors are divided fairly evenly between those who refuse to give even a clue to how the invention works and those who are only too eager to disclose all they know. Rather like the chap who used his mobile to read out his credit card details to someone while travelling on a train to Newport the other week.
Sometimes the advantage of the invention can be explained without giving away how it works. A new type of writing instrument that saved 30% of the current cost of ballpoint pens yet was as compact and convenient would be of interest to manufacturers and venture capitalists, for example. Concepts for doing business on the Internet are, sadly, usually neither able to be explained in this way, nor patentable in the UK.