Does a Provisional Patent Protect My Invention?

You may wonder: “Does a provisional patent protect my invention?” With a low filing fee and no formal requirements, a provisional patent application is an easy and inexpensive way to begin the patent process before fully fleshing out your concept. But consult with patent attorneys and they will likely tell you otherwise—that filing a provisional patent application is a waste of time that holds no value compared to a non-provisional one.

When weighing your options, you should understand that completing the work to get your patent will take time, and that a provisional patent application can let you hold onto your patent rights while making enough revenue and goodwill to move forward.

When is a Provisional Patent Application Best?

Chances are, the invention you start work on with will be far from the final product you’ll eventually want to patent. You’ll learn quickly that the process of developing and patenting an invention is an educational one. Thankfully, by acquiring a provisional patent early on, you can hold onto your intellectual property without any hassle or Patent Office interference, all while you meet potential investors and shape a product fit for non-provisional patent. 

Should I File a Patent Application Before Licensing an Invention?

Yes, a patent application actually gives you something physical that you can license, and makes for a great first step in realizing your intellectual property.

Reality Check and Importance of Disclosure

Of course, the more you know about filling out a provisional patent, the better. It’s worth also acknowledging that a nonprovisional patent application will need to be filed with the U.S. at some point if you plan on getting your patent—so while a provisional patent application is a good idea in the early going, it isn’t your final step. A useless provisional patent application, meaning one that won’t necessarily protect your invention, is one that has been hastily filled out and remains incomplete.

If you forget to include any details pertinent to your invention, you waive the right to claim those details as part of your patent. So, it’s best to put everything, even less successful variants on your invention, into your provisional patent just to be safe. Also know that your provisional patent application will be pending for just 12 months after the original filing date.

Be Thorough

Writing a patent application isn’t simple, and anyone who thinks otherwise likely doesn’t have much experience with the process. If you’re not speaking with an attorney, agent, or anyone well versed in patent law or applications, it is probably better to consult an online resource instead of a friend or family member who thinks they have all the answers. Even if you do consult an attorney, they may try to steer you away from filing a provisional patent, something I find to be misguided.

Most problems with provisional patent applications come about because of the lack of vetting from the Patent Office upon submission, meaning it’s very necessary for the applicant to fill out the paperwork as thoroughly as possible. Ways of doing this include:

  • Illustrating your ideas comprehensively, without leaving anything out.
  • Keeping a checklist of the things your patent application requires.
  • Being aware of the different types of patent applications.
  • Making sure the language in your application is clear and understandable (this is a great place to get a second opinion from a friend or family member.

That you won’t know how helpful your provisional patent application will be upon filing it, and that filing one incorrectly can throw you into a perilous situation, casts doubt over the process. Be thorough, however, and you’re taking an extra cautionary measure.

Don’t Be Afraid of Provisional Patent Applications

Provisional Patent Applications are common practice, and certainly nothing to be frightened by. They are extremely useful when it comes to obtaining legal protection for your initial invention concept while you work your way to a finished product. It’s also worth noting that this is true no matter the nature of your invention, whether you’re engineering a gadget or plugging away at a new computer program. 

So, before getting turned off by warnings against provisional patent applications, get to know why so many use them in the first place.

If you need help with a provisional patent, 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, Stripe, and Twilio.