I've spent the better part of the last several years developing a product/algorithm, and although I lack the time/funds to do an exhaustive patent search, I'm 99.99% certain that the algorithm is patentable. I think the algorithm has multiple potential applications, and the first product (mobile app) is ready to move into testing. I'd like to begin contacting potential investors, but I also want to do my best to make sure that my IP is protected. After release, the algorithm could probably be reverse-engineered with a modest amount of effort. I realize that a good patent attorney could be helpful here, but I really just don't have the budget for one at this point.
I've read the relevant parts of the NOLO patent book and all the other info I can get my hands on, and I've spent about a month attempting to come up with a writeup that I can either get witnessed or use as the basis for a provisional patent, but so far the going is very slow as I am attempting to document the generalities as well as the specifics. Part of the difficulty is that I'm not sure about exactly how much I need to document. There is a lot of supporting machinery around the core algorithm which could vary in an alternate embodiment, and flowcharts tend to be difficult to work with, especially when expressing state/concurrency. I do not doubt that I can document all this, but it may take quite a bit of time, and I'm worried that it could sap all momentum from the project. I'd rather be coding and advancing the product.
I do not have a lot of documentation of the invention other than my source code, and I am aware that this is not an ideal scenario. But if I'm planning on opening the project to testers soon anyway, is releasing the product itself sufficient to document that I am the first to invent? (I am aware that this gives me a 1 year deadline to file, and there is no remote logic in the application). I am under the impression that this might be a problem in countries where the rule is "first to file" as opposed to "first to invent", but I'm not sure I can afford to worry about that right now.
It might be an outside chance, but my other worry is that I might get an early investor that wants to develop the product further without releasing, which would leave me somewhat exposed until I get a patent application filed. But that would also hopefully mean funds to hire a patent attorney.