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Using Provisional Patent Applications to Protect Inventions

When individuals and small companies develop an invention it is often necessary to license the invention to others to monetize the invention. However in doing so there is a risk that the companies you market your invention to could copy your idea without giving you any credit or compensation for the use of your idea. Therefore it is important to protect your invention with non-disclosure agreements or through patenting your invention.

The problem is that some companies or individuals will not enter into non-disclosure agreements for legitimate reasons that protect them. The alternative solution of applying for full patent protection is time consuming and could cost upwards of thousands of dollars. It is difficult for inventors to know what to do at this point to protect themselves from competitors stealing their ideas. However inventors can find more cost effective protection through a Provisional Patent Application (PPA).

A PPA is an application to the U.S. Patent Office that allows an inventor to claim “patent pending” status for their invention or idea. The PPA is approximately 5 to 10 pages long consisting of a description and a drawing of the invention. Once filed, the application allows the user to show the invention for 12 months and represent to potential licensee’s that the invention is “patent pending.” The application also allows the owner to claim the original PPA filing date if they file for a full patent within one year of the PPA application. Filing a PPA is often less burdensome and costs either $110 or $220 depending on the type of person filing for one (individual or large  company).

However, it is important to note that the PPA filing does not grant you a patent on the invention at the time it is filed. It merely allows you to preserve your right to claim patent protection from the date the PPA was filed. To receive full patent protection you would have to not only go through the full patent process, but also have the patent approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The real benefit of being able to market your invention with the “patent pending” language is that it shows your prospective customers that you are serious about your invention and will use any and all legal protections available to you. Potential misappropriators of your idea will be discouraged from using your idea without your permission and without paying you a fee.

Help with Patents in New Jersey

The first thing to do when starting the process of marketing your product to potential licensees is to consult with your local Burlington County business lawyer. Your lawyer will consult with you regarding your specific situation. While sometimes a PPA will be the best thing for you, it can sometimes be more advantageous to try to enter into non-disclosure agreements or simply go ahead and apply for full patent protection. It is important that you speak with your lawyer to better understand your unique situation and determine the best course of action for you.