The Patent Act of 1952 was changed in 1994 to initially allow innovators to file a provisional patent application (PPA). While there is no such thing as a “provisional patent,” the P.P.A. procedure offers potential patent holders a variety of advantages:
This post will explain why provisional patent applications are helpful and what the P.P.A. process comprises. Let’s start with an explanation of what a provisional patent application is.
Filing a provisional patent application is a sensible first step toward obtaining a formal patent. The P.P.A. is a less expensive and easier application that allows you to claim “patent pending” status for your invention while still making changes. It’s crucial to remember that P.P.A.s do not instantly become official patents; to acquire patent rights, you must file a nonprovisional patent application (N.P.A.) within 12 months after your P.P.A.
(Inventors get the right to name their idea “patent pending” after filing a nonprovisional patent application. This creates a grey area where it is unclear if you have just filed a P.P.A. or invested in a nonprovisional patent application by naming your idea “patent pending.”
Your P.P.A. should be as detailed as your N.P.A. in describing your idea. A poor provisional application will fail to safeguard your intellectual property (I.P.) rights appropriately, therefore contradicting the P.P.A.’s objective. A sloppy P.P.A. might be used against you when filing an N.P.A. since the examiner may assume that you did not have a complete invention when your P.P.A. was submitted.
“What makes a strong provisional patent application?” you might be asking.
In a word, your P.P.A. should describe the various components of your invention, how they work, and how they will be utilized. It’s also worth considering whether your innovation can be utilized or built-in in several ways. Including variants in your P.P.A. makes it more difficult for others to circumvent your I.P. Consider this method as an attempt to safeguard both the innovation and the invention. This information might also be useful if you are familiar with the manufacturing techniques and/or materials that could be utilized to make your innovation.
Your innovation will be better protected if you can foresee and answer more questions in your P.P.A.
You should also submit drawings of your invention with the P.P.A.; however, you’ll still get a filing date even if you don’t. High-quality drawings can help you describe your idea and demonstrate that it is fully functional. They can increase the perceived value of your P.P.A. when presented to a potential investor or licensee. Including a variety of designs might also assist you in avoiding having to resubmit your application. Have you overlooked something in your application’s written disclosure section? It may still be covered if it’s incorporated in a drawing. In the case of P.P.A.s, the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds.
Take the time to properly grasp your invention’s point of difference in the marketplace and from previous art to guarantee that your P.P.A. has value. Using Google Shopping and Google Images, look for similar goods on the market. To extensively investigate the previous art, use Google Patents or the USPTO’s database. Is your innovation groundbreaking? Consider yourself a detective attempting to learn everything you can from previously patented innovations. (However, the prior art is not restricted to patents.) Prior art may be used as evidence to prevent you from receiving a patent if you decide to go ahead and file an N.P.A. later.
To comply with 35 U.S.C. 113, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) suggests filing “any drawings essential for understanding the invention.” After filing your P.P.A., you can’t include a drawing describing your invention. If you need to alter your P.P.A., you will have to register a new P.P.A., which will affect your priority filing date.
Obtaining an early priority filing date is one of the most significant parts of submitting a P.P.A. Because the United States is a “first to file” country, getting a patent might be a race against time. You can get an early filing date and protect your I.P. rights from others working on comparable innovations by filing a provisional application.
You may protect your innovation with a P.P.A. even before you’re ready to file a non-provisional application, allowing you more time to enhance the commercial feasibility of your creation. Even better, a P.P.A.’s earlier filing date does not start the patent term clock. The 20-year patent term begins after you acquire an official patent, but the P.P.A. allows you to protect your idea for an additional year.
Second, preparing a P.P.A. will assist you with defining your invention and identifying any flaws that need to be addressed during the 12-month “patent pending” period. If you file the P.P.A. without the help of an attorney, the knowledge you gather during the process may save you time and money if you need to hire counsel for your non-provisional application.
If you opt to work with an attorney, find one specializing in the sector where your idea is being developed. Please provide them with your marketing materials and your point of difference concerning both existing items and earlier art to assist them in accomplishing the best job possible. Another strategy to improve your P.P.A. is to create a functional prototype and share it with your attorney.
You may enhance your design and strengthen your business plan as you learn more about the strengths and shortcomings of your idea.
A professional Provisional Patent Application may also inspire greater trust in your design for commercial strategy. Potential licensees are more likely to accept your concept if they perceive that you have a comprehensive design and are skilled enough to defend your I.P. with a P.P.A. Firms who file P.P.A.s early on are more likely to raise the most money, allowing you to refine your design and sell your idea. Incorporating workarounds, variants, production methods, and materials within your P.P.A. assures investors and future licensees that you have done your due diligence. You have effectively given them a roadmap.
Finally, a provisional application safeguards your idea from infringement. Others will strive to produce rival innovations if your concept is cutting-edge. A PPA is one of the most effective methods to prevent others from copying the fundamental components of your design, providing you with a competitive advantage in your industry.
The USPTO website has comprehensive information on the processes and requirements for submitting a P.P.A. Without the help of an attorney; you can technically register a P.P.A. on your own. However, before submitting your provisional application, you should contact a patent attorney. An attorney’s counsel might be useful, especially if your innovation is sophisticated or if your patent is likely to be contested.
While a P.P.A. has fewer formal requirements than an N.P.A., the USPTO still advises applicants to think about and follow their guidelines. The Provisional Application page contains the USPTO’s regulations, filing requirements, and required paperwork. P.P.A.s can be filed electronically with no formal claim, oath, or prior art assertions. Filing fees are reasonable, although they vary depending on the size and nature of your business ($70 for micro-businesses, $140 for small businesses, and $280 for large businesses at the time of publication). Individuals, small enterprises with 500 or fewer workers, institutions, and 501(c)(3) N.G.O.s all qualify as micro-entities; thus, most inventors will only have to pay the $70 filing cost.