Provisional & Non-Provisional Patent Applications
What is a Provisional Patent Application?
A provisional patent application (PPA) is a preliminary document that establishes your priority date for your invention. A priority date is the earliest date that you can claim as the first inventor of your invention, and it can help you prevent others from patenting the same or similar idea. A PPA does not require a formal patent claim, oath or declaration, or information disclosure statement. It also has a lower filing fee than a non-provisional patent application (NPA). However, a PPA does not grant you a patent, and it expires after 12 months unless you file a corresponding NPA.
What is a Non-Provisional Patent Application?
A non-provisional patent application (NPA) is a formal document that describes your invention in detail and requests a patent from the USPTO. An NPA must include at least one patent claim, which defines the scope and boundaries of your invention, as well as an oath or declaration (a document signed by the inventor(s)), and any drawings or specifications that illustrate your invention. An NPA has a higher filing fee than a PPA, and it undergoes a rigorous examination process by a patent examiner. If your NPA meets the criteria of novelty, usefulness, and non-obviousness, you may be granted a patent that gives you the exclusive right to make, use, or sell your invention for 20 years from the filing date.
What are potential benefits of filing a provisional patent application?
First, filing a PPA can help you secure your priority date, which prevents later-disclosed inventions from becoming prior art to your invention. Second, it can give you more time to develop, test, or market your invention before filing an NPA. Third, it can allow you to use the term "patent pending" on your invention, which can attract investors, customers, or partners. Fourth, it enables you to invest less money and effort in the early stages of development of your invention, as it does not require the same level of detail, formality, or fees as an NPA.
What are potential drawbacks of filing a provisional patent application?
First, the lower degree formality of a provisional application leads to a risk that information/details relation to the invention are omitted. If such details later are included in a claim of a nonprovisional application, that claim will not be entitled to the filing date of the provisional application. Second, a provisional application does not move the USPTO examination process forward – potentially delaying the issuance of a patent. Because you can only sue for infringement after issuance of a patent, this may delay your ability to enforce your patent rights.