You can potentially patent any idea that is novel, non-obvious, and useful.
We like to use the term idea instead of invention because many people strictly interpret the word invention as a physical item such as a light bulb. Patents, however, can be obtained to protect many ideas that are not physical objects. In this post, we discuss several types of inventions which has potential to get a patent.
A provisional patent application is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to declare an invention as your own. When you submit a provisional patent application to the United States Patent Office (USPTO), you establish what you have invented as well as a filing date. Filing dates are important in patent law because it essentially establishes who created a particular invention first, and subsequently, who has rights to that invention. It may be possible that someone, somewhere, is currently thinking of your same idea! Whoever submits their invention to the USPTO first, and has an earlier filing date, will have first opportunity to get a patent for that invention. Having a provisional patent application also allows you to legally use the term “patent pending” when marketing your idea.
Provisional patent application for 12 months or non-provisional patent application for 20 years? It depends on your objectives
With a provisional patent, you have the option to turn the provisional patent into a non-provisional patent within 12 months. The question is: Should you file a provisional patent first and then file the non-provisional patent later? Or, skip the provisional patent and go straight to the non-provisional patent?