With inventing, it’s all about who invented it first. The United States works on a system called first to file, which means it matters not who invented it first but who filed the patent application first. Filing a provisional patent application will get you a filing date, so you can hopefully be first to file before someone else.
A provisional patent application “saves the date” for 12 months. That date is saved for 12 months only. Before the provisional patent app expires, you need to file a non-provisional patent application to claim the date saved by the provisional patent application. If you do this, it’s like if you had filed your non-provisional patent app at the time of when you filed your provisional patent app. The non-provisional patent app will get the filing date of the provisional patent application. However, if you don’t file a non-provisional app before the provisional app expires, the date saved by the provisional patent app disappears.
A provisional patent application is less expensive to file because it has fewer requirements for filing than the non-provisional patent app. Many inventors file a provisional patent app first at a lower cost, then raise funds to file the full non-provisional patent app.
A provisional patent application can usually be filed faster than a non-provisional patent application because it has fewer requirements for filing than the non-provisional patent app. Many inventors file a provisional patent app first quickly, before showing their invention to the public on a website or trade show. Then, take the time to request a non-provisional patent application to be filed before the provisional patent application expires in 12 months after its filing.
A provisional patent application allows the
inventor legal use of the term “patent pending”, letting others know that you have already filed for a patent application.
Keep in mind, however, that a provisional patent application is not a patent yet and you don’t have the legal right to sue anyone for patent infringement yet. It’s a “save the date”. Only after you file a non-provisional patent application and it is approved by the US Patent Office, will you have actual patent rights.
Your invention is protected in the sense that it is filed with the US Patent Office for 12 months. Anyone applying for a patent application of the same invention will be behind you in line and you will be first eligible to get a patent. However, you get this protection only if you file a non-provisional patent application before your provisional patent application expires 12 months after its filing. If you don’t file a non-provisional patent app before the provisional patent app expires, the filing date of the provisional patent app disappears and your protection is lost.
Not only does a provisional patent application save a filing date which can be used by a United States non-provisional patent application filed within 12 months, the filing date can also be used by most countries in the world. For example, you could file a patent application in Canada before your provisional patent app expires and that Canadian app would be able to claim the filing date which was saved by the US provisional patent application.
The provisional patent application is not examined which means the US patent office will not tell you whether your invention is unique enough to get a patent. Instead, the provisional patent app is a “save the date”, saving a filing date which can be used by a non-provisional patent application you file later, within 12 months of when you filed the provisional patent app.