We are often asked this question: "If I apply for a patent, is my patent application confidential?"
The short answer is no. Patent applications eventually become a matter of public record, although it doesn't happen right away.
Most patent applications are published 18 months after the filing date of the patent application.
Until the patent application is published or a patent is granted, all patent applications are maintained in the strictest confidence by the Patent Office.
After the application has been published, however, a member of the public may request a copy of the application file.
In addition, after the patent is issued, the Patent Office file containing the application and all correspondence leading up to issuance of the patent is made available in the Files Information Unit for inspection by anyone, and copies of these files may be purchased from the Office.
The bottomline is that you should be careful in how much information you put in your patent application. You want to provide enough detail to get a patent, but not so much detail that you educate the competition on proprietary knowledge that you'd prefer they didn't know about.