4 Myths About Provisional Patent Applications

You’ve likely heard about provisional patent applications… But do you really understand what a provisional patent application is and what protection it provides—and doesn’t provide—to your company? This is how many companies waste their money handling provisional patent applications the wrong way. There are at least 4 myths underlying the common misuse of provisional patent applications:

Myth #1: All You Need is a “Quick and Dirty” Provisional Patent Application

Many people believe they can submit a short description of their invention “on the back of a napkin” as a provisional patent application and secure protection for their invention.  Unfortunately, such a provisional patent application usually isn’t worth the (virtual) paper it’s written on. Every patent application—provisional or not—must describe the invention in sufficient technical detail to enable someone to make and use the invention.  “Quick and dirty” provisional patent applications that don’t satisfy this requirement can be tossed out by a patent examiner or in court, potentially leaving you without any patent protection.

At Blueshift IP we write detailed provisional patent applications to protect our clients so that they don’t fall prey to this myth.  

Myth #2: You Can Apply for A “Provisional Patent”

There is no such thing as a “provisional patent.”  There is a provisional patent application, which essentially buys you one year of time in which to file a regular “nonprovisional” patent application.  The myth is that your job is done after filing a provisional patent application, or even that filing a provisional patent application gives you patent protection.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Within one year after filing a provisional patent application you must file a nonprovisional patent application if you wish to even have a chance of obtaining a patent.

At Blueshift IP we work closely with our clients to decide whether and when to file provisional patent applications based on the client’s technology and business plans.  Although in some cases filing a provisional patent application can be a useful first step, in all cases we incorporate full nonprovisional patent applications into our clients’ patent strategies.

Myth #3: Provisional Applications Cost Less than Nonprovisional Applications

You may notice that the myths described here are related, and that confusion about how provisional patent applications work can lead to a host of misconceptions and poor decisions.  Because people think that all they need is a provisional application or that a provisional patent application can contain just a brief overview of the invention, they assume—or sometimes are even led to believe—that they can save money by filing a provisional patent application.

Although filing a provisional patent application can reduce your initial patent filing cost, filing a provisional patent application followed by a nonprovisional patent application a year later typically is more expensive in total than filing only a nonprovisional patent application at the outset.  Although this doesn’t necessarily mean that provisional patent applications should be avoided, it does mean that the belief that “provisional patent applications are less expensive than nonprovisional patent applications” is a vast oversimplification at best and an outright deception at worst.

At Blueshift IP, we don’t lead our clients to believe that provisional patent applications are an easy way to save money.  Instead, we are upfront with our clients about the pros and cons of provisional patent applications and we work closely with them to use provisional patent applications strategically in light of the client’s long-term business goals and budget.  

Myth #4: Provisional Applications Must Be Filed First   

Many people think that they must file a provisional application before filing a nonprovisional application. That is a false assumption. Although a provisional application must be followed up with a nonprovisional application, in many cases it makes sense to file a nonprovisional application from the outset without ever filing a provisional application.  One benefit of this strategy is that it eliminates the cost of the provisional patent application and puts your patent application in line to be examined more quickly by the Patent Office.


At Blueshift IP we have found these and other myths to be very widely held among high-tech companies, and unfortunately we sometimes see these myths being perpetuated by other law firms, so we strive to ensure that our clients avoid falling prey to these myths and instead benefit from our expertise in using provisional patent applications strategically as part of a comprehensive patent strategy.





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