A provisional patent application (PPA) is a fast and cost-effective tool to protect your valuable inventions. A PPA establishes a filing date for your invention in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and provides 12 months to decide whether to file a “traditional” non-provisional patent application. During those 12 months, you can continue to develop the invention, test the commercial value of the invention, and seek investors, business partners, and licensing opportunities.
As an intellectual property attorney, I have written hundreds of PPAs and reviewed more than 1000 PPA documents. Based on this work, I have discovered the most common mistake when preparing PPAs.
Although a PPA is a valuable tool, it must meet certain requirements to be valid. For example, a PPA must have the same level of written description as a “traditional” patent application. The written description of a PPA (including the drawings) must teach someone who is skilled in the relevant technology to make and use the invention.
I’ve seen many PPA applicants submit marketing brochures and lists of invention benefits without any description of how the invention is implemented. These applications are not valid and will not be given the benefit of the PPA filing date.
Failing to satisfy the written description requirement provides a false sense of security.
Although a PPA was filed, the USPTO will not recognize the filing date of the PPA if it has an inadequate description. Unfortunately, the inventor may be disclosing the invention publicly during the 12 months after filing the PPA, falsely believing that they have protected the invention. In some situations, this public disclosure of the invention may prevent them from obtaining a patent on their invention.
When preparing a PPA, focus on a strong written description that explains the benefits of the invention as well as specific details regarding how to make and use the invention. I recommend using drawings that complement the written description. Often, the drawings can help illustrate features of the invention better than relying exclusively on a written description.
Avoid this common PPA mistake to ensure you have a valid application that provides the protection you require.