Before you file a full ‘utility’ application for a patent, you may first file a provisional application. What are provisional applications and how could you benefit from one?

What is a provisional patent application (PPA)?

This type of application, sometimes abbreviated ‘PPA’, allows you up to one year extra in which to file a regular utility application. This potentially gives you a year to test the market, tweak your invention and/or find more financial support. Either a PPA or a utility filing allows you to use the “Patent pending” phrase, in marketing your product.

It can also benefit you in the following ways:

· A PPA is not a public document and your invention can remain private.

· A PPA is not examined.

· A PPA can help you secure the earliest possible filing date.

· A PPA is slightly simpler and less expensive than a utility application.

A PPA can help if you plan to file overseas.

Are there any downsides to a provisional application?

While it may seem like a great idea, a PPA does have its downsides. You must file a utility application within one year of your PPA to benefit from the earlier filing date, and thus the total cost is higher than if you simply file a utility application from the beginning.

If you make significant changes to your invention that differ from the written description in the PPA, a second PPA can be filed, or the changes can be included in the utility application – but this could affect patentability of your invention. In addition, you should keep the following in mind:

· The USPTO does not examine a PPA – thus if you do get a patent that will occur later.

· The USPTO will not verify that your PPA meets necessary requirements.

· The USPTO will not automatically file your utility application – that is up to you.

You’ll want to explore your legal options to determine if a PPA makes sense for you. A patent attorney can help you determine the best way to protect your invention and meet your business needs.