Why You Should File Provisional Patent Applications
In the United States, you must file your patent application early if you want to secure exclusivity for your invention.
Fortunately, the United States allows inventors to file provisional patent applications early on their invention to secure an early filing date and protect your IP from competitors who may attempt to copy your creation. This can provide added protection for your invention from potential theft by competitors.
What is a provisional patent?
A provisional patent application is a legal document filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that documents an invention. Filing such an application can save inventors the costly and time-consuming process of filing non-provisional patent applications, as well as shield them from claims made earlier by someone claiming similar ideas.
The USPTO recommends that a provisional application include both a written description of the invention and any drawings necessary for understanding it. This document can either be self-drafted by the inventor, or professional patent attorneys can offer assistance in crafting it.
This document is the essential first step in safeguarding an inventor’s intellectual property rights, which may include aspects such as size, shape, design and expression. Without a patent, these elements become free for others to use and exploit for profit.
Another benefit of a provisional application is that it grants inventors with a priority date. This date plays an essential role in determining whether or not the patent applicant can enforce their invention against competitors.
Provisional applications offer inventors an early priority date and save money on patent fees by not requiring formal patent claims, inventor oaths or declarations, or any information disclosure statements (IDS). This simplifies the filing process for inventions, potentially saving them some cash in the long run.
Though it may appear like an ideal opportunity to save money, it’s often wise to consult an intellectual property lawyer before filing a provisional patent application. A poorly written provisional patent application could actually limit an inventor’s patent protection and make it harder for them to prosecute against competitors who infringe upon it.
Furthermore, if a provisional application isn’t followed up with a non-provisional patent application within one year of submission, it will expire and the inventor forfeits their priority date. This is because only exceptional circumstances – like an error made when submitting the provisional – can extend the 12-month pendency period of a provisional application.
How do I file a provisional patent?
A provisional patent application is the initial step in obtaining a patent. It grants you protection for one year while you work on filing for non-provisional patent application (the official application).
You can file a provisional patent application on your own or hire a lawyer to do it for you. Make sure the lawyer specializes in provisional patent applications so they understand your invention and help ensure the process runs smoothly.
Filing for a provisional patent should be straightforward and cost-effective. However, you should always evaluate the cost of filing and payment options before committing to anything.
Some lawyers charge as little as $500 per hour, while others can charge up to $15,000 for drafting a provisional patent application. You should also factor in government maintenance fees which range from $350 to $1,000.
Once you have a draft of your provisional patent application completed, it is critical to get at least two independent reviews of the document. Ask friends, family members or others familiar with the industry for some feedback on your work.
Furthermore, you can search the Internet for prior patents, publications or sales of similar inventions. Doing this helps confirm that your idea is truly original.
When describing your invention, you should include both a written description and any drawings necessary for understanding. Your description must be comprehensive enough that someone with ordinary skill in the art can perform it without needing excessive experimentation.
Additionally, including multiple versions of your invention in a provisional application can give you greater leverage when developing future iterations of the design.
Finally, ensure you include any pertinent information which will assist the patent examiner in assessing your claim to invention. For instance, if it’s a computer, include both its operating system and specific hardware configuration.
What are the benefits of filing a provisional patent?
If you’re just beginning to create an invention or have already created a product but are not quite ready for patent protection, a provisional patent application may be the right option for you. These benefits include establishing priority rights, giving yourself an extra year to conduct market testing and further develop your invention, and more.
Establishes Priority – Filing a provisional patent is one of the greatest advantages to filing in America, as it quickly establishes your priority date. This is especially valuable since 2011 when President Obama implemented the “first-to-file” system which grants priority to inventors with the earliest filing date over any subsequent patent applications filed after them.
Additionally, it enables you to launch the patent prosecution process seriously and ensure your invention is novel, valuable, and marketable before investing significant time and money into filing a non-provisional patent application.
Provisional applications are similar to regular patent applications in that they contain a comprehensive description of your invention that allows people with ordinary skill in the relevant art to implement it. They also include drawings and other documentation which can help patent examiners during the prosecution phase understand what you’re seeking to protect.
Filing a Provisional Patent Gives You Time – Filing for a provisional patent gives you 12 months to evaluate the value of your invention and decide if it’s worth investing extra effort and resources into filing for a full non-provisional patent application. If it turns out not to be profitable, then there’s no need to continue investing resources into it; you can instead move on with other projects.
Provisional Patent Applications Provide a Window of Opportunity to Evaluate the Value of Your Invention – People often hesitate to invest large sums of money into patenting an invention due to fear that it has little or no commercial potential. Filing a provisional patent application gives you the chance to evaluate your invention, determine its profitability, marketability, novelty value and other important factors before investing any resources into it.
What are the disadvantages of filing a provisional patent?
Provisional patents offer inventors who don’t have the funds or resources to file full patent applications with an expeditious start. Unfortunately, a provisional patent won’t protect your invention as well as a non-provisional one will.
Filing a provisional patent does not grant you any real protection, but it does establish an official United States patent application filing date for your invention. This can be beneficial if you need to get started on your idea right away or secure priority dates for later-filed patent applications.
A provisional application’s early invention date can help protect your patent rights both domestically and abroad, particularly if you operate a global business or collaborate with international investors. This is especially pertinent if the invention occurred prior to the establishment of your provisional application.
However, obtaining a provisional patent may not be worth the expense and effort if you do not fully disclose all aspects of your invention. You must describe every detail, from how to make and use it, in as much detail as possible – this can be challenging since even minor details need to be included.
Additionally, make sure your invention stands apart from all other similar products. For instance, if your dog toy features a specific pattern of slits and holes, make sure not to claim the same pattern in your non-provisional application. Doing so could prove costly as it could void any protection granted by your provisional patent.
Another disadvantage to filing for a provisional patent is that you must file for non-provisional patent within 12 months after filing it, costing an additional $75 over and above your provisional patent fee of $75.
Filing for a provisional patent has several advantages; it provides an early invention date, saves you money on the patent process, and gives you more time to perfect your invention before filing for traditional protection. Furthermore, having this status allows you to proudly display “patent pending” on your product – an invaluable marketing ploy!