Filing for a patent application process can be overwhelming, but understanding the difference between provisional and non-provisional patent would be your key to securing your unique idea.
As a business owner or an inventor, your primary concern should be to protect your intellectual property. To decide whether to apply for a provisional or non-provisional patent, you must identify your short and long-term strategy.
This article includes everything you need to know about provisional vs non-provisional patent applications and which one best fits your needs.
Reasons to Know the Difference Between Provisional and Non-Provisional Patent Application
Here’s why you must know the difference between non-provisional vs provisional patent.
● To Know Your Best Fit: Both provisional and non-provisional patents are meant to protect your unique idea, but they serve your purpose differently. Knowing the distinctions will help you understand which is better for your needs.
● To Save Time and Money: Both patents have a considerable cost difference. Hence, having the know-how of both types helps you proceed smartly, making the most of your time and money.
● To Be Aware of the Deadlines: Both have different life spans and deadline needs. Once you know these details, you can strategize your application precisely and effectively.
● To Avoid Legal Issues: Failure to understand the critical differences between both types of patents may lead to various legal issues. Even worse, you may end up losing your patent rights.
What is a Provisional Patent?
A provisional patent is a quick and cost-effective way of getting your invention’s filing date and patent pending status. So, if you have a unique idea, you can immediately go ahead with the provisional patent to establish a filing date in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Remember that the provisional patent application doesn’t get reviewed and expires after one year of filing.
Why Should You File a Provisional Patent Application?
● Buy Time for Your Invention: A provisional patent enables you to “secure your spot” with an early filing date and buys you a time of 12 months to perfect your invention before going for a non-provisional patent application.
● Inexpensive Way of Getting Protected: Filing a provisional patent is less expensive, which is highly beneficial for investors still in the development phase and not ready yet to invest in the costly non-provisional patent.
● Market Testing: Letting your invention go public without filing a provisional application can lead to losing foreign and domestic patent rights. Hence, a provisional patent application allows you to conduct market testing for your invention without infringement risks.
Limitations of Filing a Provisional Patent Application
● Insufficient Protection: Although it provides you with a temporary placeholder, in some cases, it may be inadequate to provide you with the same level of protection as the non-provisional patent.
● No Formal Examination: It doesn’t get reviewed by USPTO officials; hence you do not receive a formal patentability opinion. Thus it’s difficult to assess the strength of your idea’s patentability with a provisional patent application.
● No Approval Guarantee: Although it preserves the filing date, it does not guarantee that your idea will be approved until your non-provisional application is filed. Considering this, it sometimes gives the inventor a false sense of protection.
What is a Non-Provisional Patent?
A non-provisional patent is a formal application that follows strict regulations and requirements. The application form is long, contains several parts, and has many rules. To file a non-provisional patent application, you must complete a perfect prototype to acquire a patent for your functional invention.
Why Should You File a Non-Provisional Patent Application?
● Worth the Hassle: Filing a non-provisional application seems complicated and lengthy. Still, it is worth the hassle as it issues an enforceable claim if someone tries copying your unique idea.
● Grant of Patent: If you file for a non-provisional patent application, you can protect your invention without establishing an early filing date.
● Prosecution Rights: It provides a solid legal basis for enforcement and allows you to take legal action against the infringers.
Key Differences Between a Provisional versus Non-Provisional patent Application
1. Filing Date and Priority
A provisional patent application reserves your “filing date,” which is referred to as your priority over the patent, but the patent office (USPTO) does not review it. However, USPTO officials examine a non-provisional patent which typically results in the patent issuance if approved.
2. Costs and Fees
Provisional patent applications require less formal documentation; hence they are less expensive and typically cost around $130. However, the non-provisional patent process involves many formalities and legal requirements. The method may cost you around $800.
3. Level Detail Required
A provisional patent application typically includes a cover sheet, written description, drawings, and fees. You can also submit informal sketches as long as the features are evident.
Conversely, a non-provisional patent application is a complex process. From background and summary of invention to illustrated diagrams, a non-provisional application requires in-depth details before it’s set for the first review. After the first review is clear, it goes for a second review, after which the patent is granted if there are no objections.
4. Legal Protection and Enforceability
A provisional patent gets you in the queue of the USPTO office but does not provide you complete legal protection against the infringers. However, a non-provisional patent offers a robust legal basis for enforcement, allowing you to take strict legal action against infringers.
5. Timeframes and Deadlines
The provisional application gets voided if you don’t submit a non-provisional application after one year. However, a non-provisional application can be submitted before or after one-year completion, or it can be filed directly without filing a provisional application. Once your invention is approved after examination, you obtain a patent for 20 years.
Provisional or Non-Provisional Patent: Which One Should You File?
Deciding on filing provisional or non-provisional patent applications depends on your unique situation and specific goals. If you want to establish a priority date, a low-cost provisional patent application will be the best decision. Ideally, you should file a provisional patent application first to have time to work on your invention, make improvements, and test its acceptance in the market.
However, if your invention is fully developed and you are confident with it, you may skip the provisional application step and proceed with a non-provisional patent application to acquire complete legal protection as soon as possible.
Starting with a provisional application allows you a grace period to enhance your invention so that you can make the most of your invention. Make sure you keep track of the changes you make because the non-provisional application will require extensive details of your idea and a highly functional prototype. Also, keep a close eye on the USPTO database to ensure someone else has filed nothing similar.