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Provisional applications and patents: What to know

On Behalf of | Apr 2, 2024 | Patent Law

A provisional patent application (PPA) serves as a preliminary, temporary filing with a patent office to establish an early priority date for an invention.

Unlike regular patent applications, PPAs do not undergo formal examination or grant patent rights. Instead, they provide inventors with a one-year window to further develop their invention, conduct market research and assess their invention’s commercial viability before filing a non-provisional (or regular) patent application.

What does filing a provisional patent application do?

Once a PPA is filed, the inventor establishes a priority date, which serves as the effective filing date for the invention. This priority date is crucial for determining the novelty of the invention and its eligibility for patent protection against others who may file later.

Inventors have one year from the filing date of the PPA to convert it into a non-provisional application. During this grace period, they can use the “patent pending” label to serve as notice to copycats, refine their invention, conduct further research and assess the market demand for what they have before committing to the formal (and expensive) patent process.

To maintain priority rights, inventors must file a non-provisional patent application within one year of the PPA’s filing date. The non-provisional application should claim the benefit of the earlier-filed PPA and include additional details, such as formal claims and an abstract.

Following the filing of the non-provisional application, the patent office conducts a thorough examination to assess the invention’s novelty, non-obviousness and utility. If the application ultimately meets the statutory requirements and overcomes any objections raised by the examiner during the process, the patent office may grant a patent, providing the inventor with exclusive rights to the invention for a specified period.

Patent law is exceedingly complex. You need an experienced attorney’s assistance to get through this process without missing deadlines or putting your ideas at risk of theft.