I think it’s appropriate to explain what a provisional patent application is first. Filing a provisional patent application is easier, cheaper and faster than filing a utility patent application. It’s a route that buys you some time (a year) to develop and market your idea and decide whether it is worth the thousands of extra dollars it would take to obtain a utility patent.
Typically, a provisional patent application is the route to take when the invention or software or whatever is in its development stage. Once the invention is finalized, you can directly file the non-provisional application. You want the provisional patent application to contain as much information as possible, to make the transition go that much smoother.
As far as your original question, the answer is no. It’s an advantage that either you or your competitor can use as you develop ideas. If you are both racing towards the same end goal, and one of you files the provisional patent first, you would have one year to further develop the idea without fear that it would be taken from you. The United States is a first to file system, rather than first to invent, so you would want to file a provisional patent application as soon as feasibly possible to make sure that you can eventually file a non-provisional patent for your idea.
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