An idea came to me while I was employed. The idea is within my broader field of expertise, but completely unrelated to the projects I was doing for my employer. I started working on the idea after my employment was terminated. My employer is an academic institution and, to my knowledge, their policies do not have any non-compete clauses or other clauses claiming intellectual property for a period after employment termination. Is there any specific time period that I have to wait before I file for patent? Is it possible for the former employer to claim an invention on the grounds that the idea may have been conceived during employment, solely based on the patent filing date being "too soon" after employment termination? Thanks
Of course, IANAL and any answer to your question will be subjective / a guess.
IF you have no anti-compete clause that you have signed then you have no restrictions. Your post, however, mentions the phrase "to my knowledge", so I would spend the time researching if any documents exist that defines the timeframe associated with IP assignment.
Patents can be a difficult process and it is important that you follow the proper way of filing on the first attempt. You cannot make amends once the process is started. Due to this information I would recommend that you take it slow and check out the 2 links I have attached. One is an overall patent information but the second one is a great mapping list that shows you exactly what to do and when. Each has a link to get more information on that step. When I accessed these areas, there are many sites that offer online chat help. To make sure you protect your intellectual property, I would start here: