How a Provisional Patent Application Works

lawtrades provisional patents explained

It is a well-known fact that of all the intellectual property protections issued by the U.S. government, it is most difficult to secure a formalized patent. Similarly, it is generally far more difficult to secure a patent in the United States than it is to secure this legal safeguard in most other countries. It is partially because the process of submitting a final, non-provisional patent application is so time-consuming and arduous that many individual inventors and innovative businesses work with experienced intellectual property attorneys to submit provisional patent applications to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. By submitting a provisional patent application no more than one year in advance of submitting a final, non-provisional patent application, an inventor can secure a critically important favorable filing date for the corresponding non-provisional patent application.


Differences Between Provisional and Non-Provisional Patent Applications

The only way to secure a patent from the U.S. government is to submit a non-provisional patent application. When this petition is received by the USPTO, it is stamped with a filing date. This filing date is highly consequential and is approached with great care by experienced intellectual property attorneys and inventors. There are two primary reasons why this filing date is so important. First, it is the date against which the USPTO will judge the novelty of the invention presented in the non-provisional patent application. Second, it is the date against which the novelty of the invention will be judged in the event that the inventor is compelled to either defend against claims of infringement or enforce intellectual property right in court at any point in the future.

One of the primary challenges associated with securing a favorable filing date for a non-provisional patent application is that completing this petition is a detailed, nuanced and time-intensive process. It can take even the most efficient, conscientious and dedicated intellectual property attorney weeks or months to complete a non-provisional patent application in ways that safeguard against its rejection by the USPTO. In order to help safeguard inventions from claims of prior art while they work with their clients to complete non-provisional patent applications, many intellectual property attorneys recommend filing provisional patent applications in the meantime.

Provisional patent applications do not grant inventors formalized patent protections. Instead, they help inventors by allowing them to benefit from favorable filing dates for their non-provisional patent applications. Essentially, when a provisional patent application is received by the USPTO, it is stamped with a filing date. If a corresponding non-provisional patent application for the same invention is filed within one year of that provisional patent filing date, the invention will be judged against the provisional patent filing date stamp. As a result, provisional patent applications help to “buy inventors time” while their non-provisional patent applications are being readied for submission.

Provisional patent applications take far less time to complete and are associated with far fewer filing fees than non-provisional patent applications are. Therefore, it is generally a good idea to speak with your attorney about whether it makes solid legal sense for you to file a provisional patent application on behalf of your invention while your non-provisional patent application is being completed.


Is Your Work Eligible for Provisional Patent Application Consideration?

The USPTO accepts non-provisional patent applications in regards to three different invention classifications. First, plant patents are granted to inventors of certain kinds of new and novel asexually reproducing plant species and hybrids. Second, utility patents are issued for new and original manufactured products, processes and machines. Finally, design patents are granted for ornamental designs of functional manufactured products, processes and machines. The USPTO only allows applicants seeking to obtain plant and utility patents to file provisional patent applications. Therefore, if you are interested in obtaining patent protections for an eligible design, you will simply need to work with an effective and efficient intellectual property attorney in order to submit your non-provisional patent application as soon as you possibly can without unnecessarily risking rejection of that final, formalized application.


Intellectual Property Assistance Is Available

If you are interested in obtaining legal patent protections for your new invention, be it plant, product, process, machine or design, please consider connecting with an intellectual property lawyer today. The longer you wait to begin the non-provisional patent application process (and the provisional patent application process, if you are eligible to take advantage of it), the longer both you and your invention will remain legally vulnerable in a number of ways. The experienced intellectual property attorneys at LawTrades is dedicated to efficiently and effectively protecting the rights of individual inventors and innovative businesses. Please consider scheduling a consultation with one of our attorneys today.