There you are tinkering at the workbench in your garage when you suddenly realize that you might be holding in your hands an invention that will forever change the world, or it will at least change how people peel potatoes. Before you begin showing your invention to potential manufacturers, you need to protect your rights to it. A provisional patent application can help.
Until 1995, patent applications filed in foreign countries had a one-year priority over patent applications filed in the U.S. because of the terms of an international treaty to which the federal government was a participant. American inventors showing their creations to potential manufacturers risked having someone file a patent application in a foreign country before he or she had obtained a U.S. patent
Congress decided to level the playing field by introducing the provisional patent in 1995. A provisional patent application could be filed quickly. This is important because priority of the rights to an invention is based on the date of filing of the application. Because it can be prepared and filed quickly, a provisional patent application gives an inventor the priority achieved with an early filing date. However there are three important facts about provisional patents that you should know before filing for one.
A quick, relatively easy application process
Provisional patent applications are short, easy to understand and require less of the technical material required with a non-provisional patent application. They are also less expensive because of the reduced filing fees payable when you submit them. A provisional application requires the following information about your invention:
. A general description of it
. An explanation of how it is made
. A description of how it is used
. A sketch or drawings of it
Provisional patents are just what the name implies: provisional
The filing date of the provisional patent application becomes the effective date of the non-provisional patent when it is eventually granted. This is a tremendous advantage for you as an inventor because you are protected regardless of how long it takes for your non-provisional patent to be issued. The only problem is that your provisional patent not a patent, and it is only good for 12 months.
You must file a non-provisional patent application
Obtaining patent protection requires the filing of a patent application during the 12-months before your provisional patent expires. If you do this, the date you filed your provisional application becomes the effective date of the patent that is eventually granted to you regardless of the date on which your non-provisional application was filed or the date on which your patent is granted.
Protecting your invention with a patent is the best method of ensuring against someone stealing the rights to your creation. Unfortunately, patent applications might be too complex and technical for the average person to tackle and they take time to prepare. The simplified application process for a provisional patent makes it possible for you to protect your invention with the words “patent pending” while waiting for your patent.