Provisional Patent Applications – A Tool For Business Innovations

Steve Sponseller asked:

A provisional patent application is a useful tool for certain innovations, which are important to many companies. Proper protection and development of those innovations can strengthen and expand your business.

Filing a provisional patent application establishes a filing date for the innovation without the formal requirements of a non-provisional patent application. Here are a few key features of a provisional application.

No Examination – Provisional applications are not examined – they merely establish a date of filing for the invention disclosed in the application. The application itself is abandoned automatically one year after filing. To begin the examination process necessary to obtain a U.S. Patent, and obtain the filing date established by the provisional filing, the inventor must file a non-provisional patent application within one year of the filing date of the provisional app.

One Year to “Test” – By establishing a filing date, the inventor or business can use the one year period to develop or test the market for the invention. If the invention is developed and appears to have commercial value, the company can proceed with the filing of a non-provisional application that claims priority to the earlier filing date. If the company decides not to pursue the invention, it has saved the time and costs associated with preparation of a non-provisional application.

Less Expensive – Preparation and filing costs are often less expensive due to the simpler filing requirements, thereby deferring a portion of the costs until the non-provisional application is prepared and filed.

Faster – These applications can also be prepared relatively quickly due to the simple formatting requirements. This is particularly useful when it is desirable to quickly establish a filing date prior to a public disclosure or demonstration of the invention.

Notation – Once filed, the company can use the term “patent pending” on products that contain the invention. This designation may be useful in marketing and positioning the company as an “innovator”.

Many people mistakenly believe that a provisional application will eventually mature into a U.S. Patent. As discussed above, provisional patent applications are automatically abandoned one year from the filing date. Thus, inventors need to file a non-provisional application within one year to obtain the benefit of the provisional’s filing date.

Since every company and every innovation is unique, be sure to consult with a qualified attorney or agent to discuss the specific details of your innovation and whether a provisional application is beneficial to your situation.

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