A Provisional Patent Application (PPA) is a quick and inexpensive way to establish an official patent application filing date on your invention at the US Patent Office (USPTO). Many inventors are capable of doing this themselves. If you do it yourself, you only pay the official PPA filing fee ($100 as of Jan, 2006).
You must follow the filing requirements, and provide a complete description and clear drawings of your invention to the USPTO in the proper format. The USPTO website (www.uspto.gov) provides forms and instructions. However, it is always to consult with professionals, such as Invent Help agency and you can read more about InventHelp on UrbanMatter.
Benefits of a PPA
Inexpensive and fast, especially if you do it yourself. Fastest way to establish a filing priority date.
Provides an official filing date that can be applied to a utility patent application on the same invention that is filed within a year after the PPA.
Provides “Patent Pending” status for 1 year. Some people may hesitate to copy your invention if they see “patent pending”, however you cannot enforce this.
Delays the larger expense of a utility patent application, and allows you time to achieve commercial success. If your invention is commercially successful due to its uniqueness, this fact may help you gain allowance of a later filed utility patent application.
Disadvantages of a PPA
A PPA never becomes a patent, so it is never enforceable. You can’t stop someone from copying your invention until a patent issues on it.
A PPA is never examined by the USPTO, so it doesn’t bring you closer to knowing if a patent will be allowed.
Some companies will not review an outside invention for licensing until a utility patent application is filed on it. A PPA is inadequate for these companies. Ask the companies that interest you for their requirements (don’t disclose anything about the invention, just ask their requirements for evaluating outside inventions).
The 1-year expiration of the PPA is also the deadline for most foreign patent filing if you disclose your invention publicly after filing the PPA. The problem is, a PPA gives you no feedback from the USPTO about patentability. You won’t learn from a PPA whether foreign filing expenses are justified by the time you must decide on them. This may not be problem if you only care about (or can afford) US patenting. However, it may limit your negotiating strength later with a potential licensee.
To gain full benefit from a PPA, you must file it before disclosing your invention in public, using it in public, offering it for sale, or disclosing it to a potential licensee.
A provisional patent application does not preserve a filing date for a design patent application, only for a utility application.
A utility patent application based on the PPA must be filed within 1 year to retain its benefits, and possibly to retain your right to file any patent application on this invention at all.
Experience and in-depth knowledge of patent law are important in preparing a patent application in proper format with strong claims, and in arguing for the best coverage. Therefore, hiring a patent agency, like Invent Help, is no brainer.
You can lose your right to file a patent application in the US and/or in foreign countries if you wait to file a PPA and/or a non-provisional patent application after disclosing your invention in public, publishing information about it, using it in public, or offering it for sale. You can file a provisional or non-provisional US patent application up to 1 year after the first of the above events in the US, but you lose your foreign rights unless you file before any of the above events (this is a simplified explanation). It is best to file a patent application before any of the above events.