What Is a "Provisional Patent Application"?
Individuals or businesses that plan on controlling the sales and manufacture of their invention may obtain much benefit from a provisional patent application.
There are many less requirements for a provisional patent application than for a regular utility application. This allows you to spend less money initially on the patent, and instead put more money into the building and sale of the invention. In addition, a provisional patent application may usually be prepared and filed more quickly than a utility patent application.
However, the provisional patent application expires one year after the application has been filed. During the one-year patent-pending period of the provisional patent application, you may test-market the product. If, during the year, you make important changes to the invention, you may elect to file additional provisional patent applications.
As the end of the year approaches, preferably at about the ten-month mark, you will then need to make the decision whether to pursue the utility patent, or instead abandon patenting the invention.
The trade-offs that must be considered when deciding whether to file a provisional patent application are extra total cost, added time to get a granted patent, and the fact that a provisional may be harmful if you intend to offer to license or sell an invention to another manufacturer. The cost to prepare the provisional generally does not reduce the cost of preparing a regular patent application. The time the provisional is pending, up to one year, delays the actual patent grant by about the same amount of time. Finally, when a manufacturer decides they are interested in buying your patent rights or licensing from you, they will want to review your patent application. Unfortunately, with current delays at the Patent Office, showing them a provisional tells them that it will likely be years before your patent is granted. In nearly all cases, the manufacturer will tell you to come back when you have a granted patent.