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Staking Your Claim Fast and First

Once your invention has been sufficiently perfected and tested, you may want to try and sell it to the highest bidder. Of course, to secure some protection against a rip-off, you can file a patent application and market your invention with a “patent pending” status. Other parties may be liable for patent infringement if the patent is subsequently approved and they used the product without your permission.

  • A Provisional Patent Application lasts 12 months from the date it is filed. The one-year period cannot be extended.
  • Filing a provisional application does not mean your patent will automatically be granted at the end of the 12-month period. You must file a non-provisional application before the period expires in order to preserve any benefits. If you take no action, the provisional application is abandoned after one year.
  • If an invention has multiple inventors, each must be named on the application.
  • Provisional Patent Applications cannot be filed for design inventions.

However, this approach has some drawbacks, since it may be impractical or too time-consuming for your purposes at this time. Fortunately, there is an alternative that may suit your needs.

Instead of a regular patent application, you can file a Provisional Patent Application (PPA). This allows you to claim “patent pending” status for a year while you shop your invention to potential bidders. It’s an easier process than filing a regular patent application, but you still must provide a detailed written description of the invention, its intended use and, if appropriate, an informal drawing. The filing fee is lower than the fee charged for a standard non-provisional application.

Important: The written description and drawings of a provisional patent application must conform to the same statutory requirements as a regular patent application.

If you don’t follow up with a regular patent application, the PPA status will expire after a year. You can still file for a patent on the same invention, but you won’t be able to benefit from the earlier filing date.

On the other hand, if you file for a regular patent within a year of filing a Provisional Patent Application you can rely on the filing date for the provisional patent application. This can provide a distinct advantage. The earlier filing date may help you:

  • Deflect a claim that a similar type of invention preceded yours. 
  • Establish precedence for the same invention.

There are other advantages, as well as disadvantages, to filing a Provisional Patent Application. Consult with your attorney to see if the process fits your current needs.