1. About Non-Provisional Patents
2. About Patent Applications
3. Provisional vs. Non-Provisional Patents
4. Which Patent Application Should You File?

A conventional patent application — also known as a non-provisional patent application — is the formal patent application that the Patent Office will review. If accepted, you'll be awarded a patent for your creation, which comes with exclusive rights.

About Non-Provisional Patents

Provisional patent applications are informal, simple, and quick to file. Non-provisional applications, however, are long and complicated. The form is long and contains many different parts. Each part has numerous rules.

A non-provisional patent application may be compared to a formal dinner with its length and various parts. With all of its fussy rules, you may get into trouble if you break one. However, unlike a stuffy dinner, the hassles that come with a non-provisional application are worth it. A conventional patent application can issue into enforceable claims, which a provisional application can't do.

A dog toy you create with a specific pattern of holes and slits is only protected once the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issues you a non-provisional patent. After that, anyone who makes a dog toy with your same pattern is infringing on your patent rights.

About Patent Applications

Inventors submit patent applications to the USPTO in hopes of obtaining patent protection for their inventions. The types of patent applications are the following:

  • Design
  • Utility
  • Plant

A design patent discloses how an invention looks, a utility patent discloses how an invention works, and a plant patent disclose a new plant variety.

The USPTO examines patent applications and issues patents for inventions that are both novel and non-obvious. There are strict rules governing the content and format of patent applications.

Provisional vs. Non-Provisional Patents

How do people come up with inventions?

As an example, consider your dog not leaving you alone while you eat dinner. In exasperation, you put a piece of your sandwich inside a plastic jar and let him push it around. As you watch your dog, you're hit with an idea. Good inventions are rare, so if you have a flash of genius, you should protect your idea.

First, you must know the difference between provisional and non-provisional patents.

By filing a provisional application, you're able to quickly protect your invention, but only for a short period of time. Provisional applications are only the beginning. True protection comes in the form of a non-provisional patent.

Knowing what makes these patents different will show you more about the patent filing process, along with the costs that come with patents and the best ways to use provisional and non-provisional applications to protect your rights.

For instance, as you watch your dog play with the plastic jar, you might realize that the right size holes would make the toy perfect. You might ask yourself questions like the following:

  • Which size holes would be big enough for him to taste the food but small enough to prevent him from taking all of it?
  • How do I know what size is the right size?

You may sit down and sketch some ideas and then proceed with testing to see which works best.

Which Patent Application Should You File?

If you're wondering which application to file, you should file both. For instance, you have an idea of the range of possibilities for slit and hole patterns for your dog toy. By including them in your provisional application, you have a year in which to test your ideas. You can create drawings for your conventional application based on successful patterns.

During that time, you can also find a partner who will produce the toy. You can test it on other dogs to see if they like the same patterns. You may also contact toy manufacturers.

Provisional patents give you time to work on your patent, allowing you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my invention work?
  • Is my invention worth the time and money that goes into a non-provisional application?
  • Does anyone want to make my product?

Provisional and non-provisional patents are different, but you can use them together to make the most of your creation and obtain the most valuable patent possible.

Conventional patents give you rights that a provisional patent doesn't. However, some inventors find provisional patents useful as they perfect their creations.

If you need help with a conventional patent application, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.