The United States Patent and Trademark Office accepts two kinds of patent applications. One is considered provisional and the other is treated as non-provisional. In most contexts, the word “provisional” means temporary. It would therefore follow logically that a provisional patent application would serve to grant an inventor temporary protection for his or her intellectual property. However, the USPTO’s provisional patent application process is not so straightforward.
It can be beneficial to understand the basics of the patent application process but an attorney is best placed to explain the nuanced process of applying for a patent successfully. Only non-provisional patent applications provide individual innovators and creative businesses with a mechanism that can potentially lead to legally recognized intellectual property safeguards. So, given that this is the way that non-provisional patent applications work, what is the purpose of a provisional patent application? What does a “provisional patent” really protect?
The Purpose of Securing Patent Protection
After creating something new, it can be tempting to either relax or move on to a new project. However, the work of inventing something novel does not end once a piece or process is functional and reproducible. It is critically important to secure proper legal safeguards for creative work for a number of pressing reasons.
First, failing to obtain government-issued intellectual property protection makes it nearly impossible to enforce intellectual property rights in court. As a result, another individual or business could claim credit for your idea and sue you for using or seeking to profit off of your own invention.
Second, without proper safeguards in place, your work remains vulnerable to both intentional and unintentional infringers. Others can use and/or profit off of your work without facing legal consequences if you do not protect your invention(s).
As a result, it is important to file for a formal patent if you have created a novel product, process, plant species or design for a manufactured product or process. Patents are notoriously difficult to secure successfully. However, working with an experienced intellectual property attorney can help to ensure that your patent application is as well researched and supported, detailed and complete as possible. An attorney will also be able to advise you about whether it makes sense to file both provisional and non-provisional applications under your specific circumstances.
Why Filing a Provisional Patent Application May Be Beneficial
A non-provisional patent application is a formal request that the USPTO approve and issue legal protections for your invention. This application process is time-intensive, labor-intensive and detailed in nature. As a result, it will likely take your attorney a reasonable amount of time to complete. But the longer you wait to file a non-provisional application, the longer your work remains vulnerable to infringement and the more likely it becomes that prior art will interfere with your work’s patent eligibility. For this reason, it may make sense to file a provisional patent application while your non-provisional patent application is being worked on.
While a provisional patent application will not legally protect your work, it will allow you to secure a favorable filing date for your non-provisional patent application. When a non-provisional application is formally filed with the government, the USPTO issues a filing date for that application. This date is critical because it is the date against which claims of prior art and/or infringement will be judged both during the application process and during any future intellectual property lawsuits related to the work in question. Securing a filing date as soon as possible helps to protect the work itself and the interests of the inventor of that work. As long as a non-provisional patent application is filed within one year of the provisional patent application, the favorable filing date secured by filing the provisional application will be honored.
Intellectual Property Guidance Is Available
Failure to seek necessary legal guidance during the patent application process can lead to an otherwise preventable rejection of your petition. Our attorneys understand just how challenging it can be to file a successful patent petition. And because it is critically important to safeguard your work as quickly as possible in order to protect it from prior art, infringers and potential infringement claims, consider connecting with an experienced intellectual property attorney at LawTrades today.