Provisional Patent Steps
Provisional patents offer an affordable and straightforward method to safeguard your invention while you complete research and development. They’re especially beneficial for those with financial constraints or who are uncertain if their idea will ever succeed.
Before filing a provisional application, conduct a patent search to make sure your idea hasn’t already been patented by someone else. Doing this step ahead of time can save time and money in the long run.
1. Conduct a Patent Search
A patent search is the initial step in protecting your invention. You can do this on your own or with professional assistance from a patent lawyer, but conducting a search before filing for patent protection will save time, money and effort in the long run.
Additionally, patent searches can help you avoid litigation in the future by revealing whether someone else’s invention has already been patented. Furthermore, they allow you to determine if your creation is unique and serves a practical purpose.
Conducting a patent search doesn’t need to break the bank. There are plenty of free websites and databases you can use for free, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which offers both full-text and image search capabilities. This makes USPTO searches particularly convenient.
Utilizing multiple websites can be an effective way to enhance your results and make the search more comprehensive. You may want to take advantage of some of the useful tools on USPTO’s website, such as CPC Classification Definition or International Patent Classification Catchword Index.
Begin your patent search by brainstorming terms that describe your invention, then entering them into the search bar of a chosen patent search engine. You may also use synonyms and advanced search functions to further refine results.
If the search returns too many results, try different words or phrases from your brainstorming list. You may need to refine the search by using more specific language or by looking for your invention across multiple databases.
You can also utilize a database designed specifically to search published patent applications. This will give you an accurate indication of what the USPTO considers prior art and help identify any potential problems with your invention.
Once you understand what the USPTO considers to be prior art, you can use this knowledge to decide if your invention qualifies for a patent. If so, then you should begin the patent application process by filing a provisional patent application.
2. Write a Patent Description
A patent description is an integral step in the process of obtaining a patent. It outlines your invention, how it functions and its limitations. Ideally, include professional-quality drawings with this document for added visual impact.
A well-written description can also help you make a strong case for your claims. It should make it simpler for a court to comprehend your invention and determine if you are eligible for patent protection.
The description is the initial section of your patent, and it outlines the problem you are solving and how your invention is new and improved. It should also provide a general technical background, drawing upon previous patent applications or publications related to the subject matter of your invention.
Your description should provide enough detail for someone knowledgeable in your field to replicate and utilize it. For instance, if creating a chemical compound, make sure they can reproduce it and manufacture it for themselves.
When describing your invention, use plain language and avoid terms that could be interpreted incorrectly. Doing so could result in patent infringement if those ambiguous words or phrases are included. Otherwise, the patent application could be denied and you won’t have protection for your creation.
If you are uncertain how to craft your description, hiring an attorney is recommended. They can review it and point out any mistakes that should be corrected. Furthermore, lawyers conduct thorough patent searches which enable them to uncover competing inventions and similar patents.
Once your description is written, it’s time to craft patent claims. These are the boundaries that let other people know when they are infringing upon your patent.
In addition to specifying the subject matter of your patent in technical terms, make sure its claims are broad enough to prevent infringement and provide commercially useful protection. Moreover, ensure that every element mentioned in any claim is essential to your invention so that competitors cannot circumvent or ignore it while still infringing upon your patent rights.
3. File a Provisional Patent Application
When an inventor is ready to pursue patent protection for their invention, they must first file a provisional application. This is typically cheaper and simpler than filing for full patent rights; additionally, there may be less need for the services of a patent attorney since there are few requirements.
Provisional patent applications should include a written description of the invention and sufficient drawings to make it understandable to others. This should include schematic drawings that illustrate components and how the device functions, as well as any other necessary drawings for comprehending the invention.
The written description must be thorough and precise, without any gaps or omissions that could constitute invention disclosure. This is especially important if you have created a new process or product that could be utilized by competitors to infringe upon your patent claims.
Inventors may purposefully omit key information from their invention disclosure in an effort to conceal a trade secret or the “secret sauce” behind their invention. Unfortunately, this type of disclosure is insufficient for patent rights protection as it fails to adequately describe the invention and thus cannot be enforced.
A well-written provisional application, on the other hand, can provide a concise invention disclosure that clearly delineates your intellectual property rights. A poorly composed provisional application not only fails to grant patent rights but may actually revoke all of them.
Consider this scenario: you’ve developed a novel way of pasteurizing milk into cheese. You file your provisional patent application in February 2019, while your competitor files their standard patent application for the same process in August 2019. Clearly, whoever filed the provisional patent first will get priority date recognition and thus greater protection from competitors.
This is an invaluable advantage, as it gives you an additional year to develop and test your invention. However, remember that filing a provisional patent application does not guarantee protection from possible infringers. Therefore, it’s wise to involve the patent office in any dispute as soon as possible; earlier applications usually have better odds of success in court.
4. Filing a Non-Provisional Patent Application
A non-provisional patent application, also referred to as a utility patent application, is the next step after filing for a provisional patent. A non-provisional application can be filed at any time and typically matures into an issued patent one year after filing.
Non-provisional patent applications consist of a specification and drawings (drawings are optional but necessary for understanding the invention), but do not require formal patent claims. The USPTO filing fee for a provisional application is much lower than for standard non-provisional patent applications – starting as low as $75 for small entities.
Filing a provisional application before filing for full patent protection offers the advantage of delaying examination by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), giving an inventor more time to assess their invention and decide whether they wish to invest in a full patent application. During this one-year period, inventors can further test their invention, refine it according to market requirements, and assess whether pursuing utility patent protection is worthwhile.
However, filing a provisional patent application before filing another non-provisional application with priority to an earlier filed provisional application can delay examination by the USPTO and result in an earlier expiration date for your patent. This is because the patent office recalculates utility patent terms according to when they were originally filed as provisionals.
In most cases, filing a provisional patent application can be advantageous over its drawbacks. An inventor can file this type of application before making any public disclosures about their invention and thus have time to test out their idea, assess its worth and decide if investing time and money into getting a provisional patent is worth it.
Filing a non-provisional patent application, however, can be both time consuming and costly. A full patent application necessitates an extensive description of the invention which requires considerable effort to prepare, as well as several formal claims that define its legal boundaries.
Drafting claims can take a considerable amount of time and effort, making it one of the most complex parts of patent preparation. A non-provisional patent application should always be handled by an experienced attorney to avoid mistakes during this step; as such, hiring a patent attorney early on in your invention-drafting journey is highly recommended.