Many people are familiar with “traditional” patent applications, which are referred to as non-provisional patent applications.
These are formal patent applications with specific rules regarding a written description, drawings, and claims that define the legal protection provided by each non-provisional patent application. The applications are typically prepared by patent attorneys (or patent agents) and go through an examination process to determine whether the invention described in the application is patentable.
A well-drafted non-provisional patent application typically costs $8,000-15,000 depending on complexity.
However, there’s another type of application referred to as a provisional patent application (PPA). This application allows an inventor to establish a filing date in a fast and cost-effective manner.
A PPA is not examined and never becomes a patent itself, but it’s a powerful tool for securing a filing date that gives the inventor time to determine whether to file a more expensive non-provisional patent application.
Here are three crucial benefits of incorporating PPAs into your intellectual property strategy:
The United States is a “first to file” country for patent applications.
Here’s what this means:
If two people create the same invention, at approximately the same time, the first person to file a patent application (including a PPA) with the USPTO is awarded a patent for the invention.
In the “first to file” system, it doesn’t matter who creates the invention first – the winner is the person who gets the earlier filing date!
Thus, there are significant advantages to establishing a filing date with the USPTO as quickly as possible.
You have no idea whether other inventors are working on the same idea and may beat you to the patent office, even though you may have created the invention first. Be sure your intellectual property strategy takes advantage of the speed and cost-effective protection provided by PPAs.
After filing a PPA, you have an entire 12 months to decide whether to file a non-provisional patent application (a formal patent application that will be examined by the USPTO).
During those 12 months, you can continue to develop the invention and test the invention in the marketplace.
This means you can test for consumer acceptance and determine whether the invention has enough commercial value to justify the additional costs associated with preparing and filing a non-provisional patent application.
The generous 12-month time period provided by a PPA also allows you, the inventor, to:
If after this 12-month period you decide not to pursue a non-provisional patent application, the PPA merely expires with no further fees or activities required.
Although PPAs have certain content requirements, the rules for PPAs are much simpler than the formal requirements of a non-provisional patent application.
These simplified rules streamline the PPA drafting process, saving significant time and cost.
For example, a PPA can be drafted in just a few hours if the details of the invention are already documented and include good drawings.
Additionally, the USPTO filing fee for a PPA is much less than the filing fee for a non-provisional patent application.
I recently began working with a tech startup that is developing new computer networking systems and software. The founders of the startup have created several new inventions and are continuing to develop more inventions that improve the way data is communicated between multiple computers and other systems.
As you might imagine, it’s crucially important to protect this company’s proprietary technology.
So, we have implemented a system that includes filing several PPAs to protect the initial inventions, followed by additional PPAs to protect other critical inventions being developed in the next few months.
These multiple PPAs protect the company’s inventions as it continues to develop and launch its first products.
As we approach the 12-month expiration date of the first PPAs later this year, the company can evaluate the commercial value of the inventions to the company. Based on this evaluation, the company will determine which inventions are worthy of the time and expense associated with preparing and filing a non-provisional patent application.
This approach allows the company to defer a significant amount of the costs associated with non-provisional patent applications until they have conducted market tests and talked with potential investors.
I encourage you to follow a similar approach in your business.
Protect your initial inventions quickly using a PPA and consider filing additional PPAs to protect future inventions that are vital to your business.
This approach protects your key inventions and gives you peace of mind as you continue developing and launching your product.