Provisional Patent v. Non-Provisional Patent

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A good invention is rare. That flash of genius is fleeting so be ready to protect it when it comes.

A patent provides protection for your invention. To protect your invention, should you file a provisional patent application or a non-provisional patent application?


Before you go out and tell the world about your invention, find investors, and get your start-up launched, you want to make sure your invention is covered. A priority date is that date that you represent to the patent office as the day by which you created your invention. It lets everyone know that anyone that comes up with your invention or copies it after the priority date is infringing on your rights. You can establish your priority date two different ways. Either by filing a provisional patent application or by filing a non-provisional patent application. So what is the difference between a provisional patent application and a non-provisional patent application? 

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Provisional Patent Application

A provisional patent application is an informal patent application that can be prepared and filed at a reduced cost.

A provisional patent application is a temporary patent application.

 The provisional patent application temporarily holds your priority date for a year while you decide whether you want to invest a greater amount of time and money to prepare a non-provisional patent application. By the 1-year deadline, you must decide either to convert your provisional patent application into a non-provisional patent application or lose your priority date. Provisional patent applications are a great avenue for start-ups and small businesses with a limited budget that are trying to decide if they want to invest in a full non-provisional patent application. During the year time frame, you can also mark your invention as patent pending.

A word of caution regarding provisional patent applications.

A word of caution

Some investors may largely disregard a provisional patent as having little value because provisional patents do not get examined by the patent office until they are converted into a non-provisional patent application. 

If you are seeking investors for your start-up you may want to explore going straight for a non-provisional patent application.

Non-provisional Patent Application

Typically when you hear about patent applications, people are referring to a non-provisional patent application.

A non-provisional patent application is a formal patent application.

A non-provisional patent application is a formal patent application that includes drawings, a description section, and a claims section. It includes a full description of your invention with all the variations and designs. A non-provisional patent application puts your invention in the queue at the patent office for examination. The non-provisional patent application also allows you to mark your invention as patent pending. With a filed non-provisional patent application in hand, you can go out to investors to raise money or start selling your invention in the marketplace. 

Choosing between provisional and non-provisional patent applications.

So which door should you choose?

If you are just getting started and am not sure whether your invention will be valuable or if you have a limited budget, file a provisional patent application. If you are looking for investors or are already committed to bringing your invention to market get a non-provisional patent application.

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