The Disadvantages of a Provisional Patent

By Shelly Morgan

The phrase “provisional patent” is shorthand for provisional patent application. There is no such thing as a provisional patent. Filing a provisional application is a convenient way to get the earliest filing date possible while preparing the full application. However, filing provisionally presents substantial risks that must also be considered.

The phrase “provisional patent” is shorthand for provisional patent application. There is no such thing as a provisional patent. Filing a provisional application is a convenient way to get the earliest filing date possible while preparing the full application. However, filing provisionally presents substantial risks that must also be considered.

Pendency Period

By filing a provisional patent application, you set a 12-month clock called the pendency period. During the pendency period, the United States Patent and Trademark Office does not examine the application on its merits. Before this period is over, you must either file a regular patent application claiming the priority of the provisional one or convert the provisional application into a regular one. Only then will the USPTO examine the application. If you do not follow up, you may lose the right to file for a patent on the invention.

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Increased Cost

The initial cost of filing a provisional patent application is slightly less than the cost of filing a regular application. While this may appeal to cash-strapped inventors, the savings is illusory. In addition to paying fees for filing the provisional application, inventors must also pay regular filing fees when they file the regular application or convert the provisional application. This could end up costing you a few hundred dollars, depending on the type of patent you are seeking.

Increased Risk

An inventor cannot sell, publish or publicly use his invention in the U.S. more than one year before he files a patent application for the invention. Inventors who engage in such acts during the pendency period risk their right to patent the invention if they inadvertently let the provisional application lapse without converting it or filing a regular application.

Minimizing Risk

Provisional patent applications typically contain limited information because the inventor is pressed for time or is uncertain about the scope of the disclosure. Disclosing partial information is not the best practice because only the disclosed information will receive the early filing date. If you must file provisionally, the best practice is to disclose as much as possible about how to make and use the invention. By making as full a disclosure as possible, your invention will be protected if you have to convert it into a regular application at the last minute.

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What If a Full Patent Is Not Approved and You Have a Provisional Patent?

References

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What Are Patents?

Article I of the U.S. Constitution empowers the federal government to grant patents to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts.” A patent is a property right that enables an inventor to prevent others from using his invention for a limited time. In essence, it gives the inventor a monopoly and the exclusive rights to sell, use, or license the invention. To receive a patent, the inventor must publicly disclose how the invention works. By providing legal protection to new inventions, patents help encourage investments in research and development without fear that another will steal their hard work.

Pros & Cons of Provisional Patent Application

When an inventor says that he has a "patent pending," it can mean that he has a provisional patent. Inventors who are low on funds or need a patent in a hurry often obtain a provisional patent. Although an application of a provisional patent is easier to file than one for a full utility patent, the provisional patent is only a step in the direction of obtaining a full patent and is not an end in itself. After one year, the provisional patent is discarded if you do not file for a full patent. While saving money and time are advantages of provisional patents, you should also be aware of possible pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Can You Ever Lose a Patent?

Patents provide legal protection for your unique ideas translated into inventions. This exclusive right to put an invention into the marketplace gives you the ability to earn money from the invention to the exclusion of others. However, patents do not last forever. The U.S. government, in addition to issuing patents, also puts restrictions on the length of their use.

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