IP: Provisional Patents

The cost of submitting a utility patent is high, requiring attorney fees, time from the inventors, and document fees. However, many compa­nies need to discuss their concepts with others to assess their value and the potential payoff. Provisional patents are an inexpensive way to provide a year of protection, after which a full utility patent is sub­mitted; if the full patent is not submitted, all protection is lost. The provisional patent is an excellent way to assess the concept but also is a way to protect its patentability through inadvertent disclosure. Although in the united States an invention that is disclosed is

protected for one year before the patent must be submitted, public disclosure sacrifices patenting rights in many countries, including Europe and Japan. The provisional patent, however, is considered protection from disclosure.

Provisional patents are also a powerful tool for start-up and small companies. Not only do they give a company a year to make sure that the investment is worthwhile, they also give those companies that year to bring in the financial resources to pay the patenting costs. A new company often counts on revenues or funding within a year’s period, but the early years are also the critical ones to build the iP necessary to compete and differentiate in the world of innovation. Provisional patents are a strategic tool to enable protection of that IP.