In the United States, inventors can protect their discoveries by filing a patent application. If the application is approved, then other people are prevented from making use of the invention without permission. While the application process can be lengthy, it can be broken down into a number of straightforward steps.
One important distinction to understand is that between a provisional patent application, or PPA, and a regular patent application, or RPA. The process of how to get a US provisional patent is shorter and simpler than obtaining a regular patent. However, it does not provide the same level of protection as an RPA. In addition, a PPA is only good for one year from the date of filing.
Since filing a regular patent application can be a long and involved process that often requires the assistance of an experienced patent attorney, many inventors prefer to start by filing for a provisional patent. If you have ever seen the words "patent pending" on a product, this indicates that a PPA has been filed.
The process of filing such an application is generally fairly straightforward. All you need to do is write a brief document, between 5 and 10 pages in length, that describes what your invention is, what it does, and how it works. Be sure to include a few illustrations or diagrams of your invention.
Once you have completed this description, you simply need to submit the document to the Patent Office. Once it has been received, you will have established a filing date. If you then complete an RPA within 12 months of that date, you can use the initial date as the date of your patent. This way, you can establish priority for your work should someone else file a patent after that original date.
Filing a provisional application is also a good deal cheaper than filing a regular one. While applying for a regular patent may cost you thousands of dollars, in addition to the cost of legal help, filing a PPA often costs a few hundred dollars or less. For an individual, it can cost as little as $65.
However, it is important to remember that just filing a provisional application does not automatically mean that your invention will be patented. If you do not file an RPA within one year, you will lose your priority and have to start the process over. The point of filing a PPA is simply to make sure that you get the earliest possible date for your priority.
Filing a provisional application can be done a lot more quickly, however, since many of the steps required for an RPA do not have to be carried out. For example, there is no need to do an extensive patent search before you file your PPA, nor do you need to fill out a Patent Application Declaration.
Knowing how to get a US provisional patent is an important step for any inventor who wants to protect their intellectual property. Doing so can help you make sure that you establish the priority of your hard work.
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