A provisional patent is the first step in the patenting process for many inventors. Provisional patents last for 12 months from the filing date, during which time you are considered “PATENT PENDING” and can legally mark your product as such. “PATENT PENDING” can be a valuable marketing tool and may cause interested parties to take your invention more seriously. Upon filing, provisional patents secure a priority date, which is very important in our first to file patent system. The primary legal purpose of provisional patents is disclosure of the invention. All relevant elements of the invention should be described in words, in drawings, or in both. Formal patent drawings are not required for provisional applications and informal sketches, pictures, or 3D models are sufficient. Claims are not required for a provisional application either, and typically are not constructed until the non provisional patent is written. Because provisional applications focus on disclosure, they are substantially less expensive than the full non provisional application and afford inventors an inexpensive start into the patent process. Provisional applications typically cost between $600 and $1,500 at our firm, depending on complexity. Provisional patents are a type of utility patent and must be followed by a non provisional utility patent during their pendency in order to secure long term patent coverage. It is important to note that you should get started with the non provisional application within 6 months of your provisional pendency, as non provisional patents take substantially longer to draft and are much more involving than provisional applications.
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Important Changes to Patent Law in the US
New 35 USC § 102 – FIRST TO FILE
Under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, the U.S. patent system will be changing to a “first to file” system. This change takes place on March 16th, 2013 and will impact you. In addition to being the first to invent, you must also be the first to file a patent application or you will not be able to obtain a patent. Both a provisional and nonprovisional patent are considered filings for purposes of securing rights to your invention. Timing is imperative as a result of these changes and you should attempt to have a patent filed as soon as possible. As a consequence of these changes, another person may file for a patent on your invention or an invention similar thereto and prevent you from ever obtaining a patent – this is true regardless of whether you were the first to invent. All patents filed on or after March 16th, 2013 are subject to these new laws.