What Is a Provisional Patent?
Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a provisional patent. However, there is a provisional patent application process which allows an inventor to secure a favorable non-provisional patent filing date and some extra time to finalize a formal, non-provisional patent application.
The Non-Provisional Patent Process
There are three kinds of formal patent protections granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Plant patents safeguard new and unique asexually reproducing plants and hybrids. Design patents protect the unique and integral designs associated with manufactured products and processes. And utility patents help to ensure that the intellectual property rights associated with new, novel, unique, useful and non-obvious products and processes remain intact.
Only by filing a non-provisional patent application and ultimately receiving USPTO approval of that application may inventors secure the formal intellectual property rights associated with patent protection. When a non-provisional patent application is filed, it is granted a filing date. This date serves as the time against which the USPTO will measure an idea’s novelty and is also the date upon which formal intellectual property rights associated with the invention will become enforceable in court, if the formal patent is ultimately granted. As a result, it is important that an inventor secure an early filing date, as doing so better ensures both approval of the patent safeguards applied for and an important resource related to the enforcement of those protections moving forward.
The Provisional Patent Application Process
Unlike the non-provisional patent process, submitting a provisional patent application will not potentially lead to the approval of any legal protections upon an eligible product, process or plant species. Instead, this process allows an applicant to secure an early filing date for a subsequent non-provisional patent application. To be effective, a provisional patent application must be filed within 365 days before a final, non-provisional application is filed. If a non-provisional application is filed within that window, its filing date will be listed as the date secured via the provisional patent application process.
It is worth noting that in addition to securing a favorable filing date and buying a patent applicant time to finish a non-provisional application, the provisional patent application process allows inventors “a way out.” Sometimes, an inventor discovers that a creation is not yet ready for patent protection because it cannot yet be properly replicated or needs some kind of additional improvement that cannot be made within the 365-day window. Once a non-provisional patent is filed, some of its contents may become public knowledge. However, the contents of a provisional patent application are not generally released in this way. As a result, filing a provisional patent application allows an inventor time to determine whether filing a non-provisional patent is the best idea at this point in time, while relieving the pressures associated with securing a solid filing date.
Intellectual Property Assistance Is Available
If you are interested in filing a non-provisional and/or provisional patent application, please consider reaching out to the intellectual property team at LawTrades for assistance. We have extensive experience helping both businesses and individuals secure necessary intellectual property protections in the forms of registered copyrights, trademarks, patents and non-disclosure agreements used for the safeguarding of trade secrets. We are passionate about protecting the hard-earned creative work of inventors, designers and entrepreneurs. If your work could benefit from intellectual property protection, please consider contacting LawTrades today.