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By Alex Polyansky Aug. 6, 2018

Inviting All Entrepreneurs and Startups: Quick Guide to Protecting Your Product with a Provisional Patent Application

entrepreneurs

You’ve always been a dreamer, a thinker, and a creator who adds to the world. Yet, we live in a place where light-fingered opportunists “borrow” ideas all the time, and you can’t afford to have yours taken away for free. It just so happens your fears are very grounded. If you are unaware of your invention, how can you know when you are giving it away?

In fact, research shows that 50% of all inventions occur by accident. It comes as no surprise that many people may be confused as to how to move forward. Inventing is the easy part, it’s what comes next that tinkerers tend to avoid.

Unfortunately, even if you think you have a BIG idea, speed to market is the standard by which success is measured, and the longer you wait, the more likely someone else may take your idea. Recent changes to American patent law has moved the USA from a first to invent to a “first inventor to file” (FITF)system. Therefore, it’s critical that you get your paperwork in before anyone else does.

I Have an Idea, What’s Next?

This is where it can get very complicated. Inventors often struggle to commercialize their discoveries successfully. That’s because rich investors, competitors, and large companies can reap the rewards of an inventor’s labor prior to patent. The main reason for this mishap is due to inventors and entrepreneurs exposing themselves too soon.

Exclusive ownership is the key to commercial success with any critical asset, yet many inventors find filing for a patent to be a major headache. Although there is concern about the hassle, fees, and legality of all the paperwork, it is vital for the protection of the invention itself.

Public Disclosure

Protecting your invention is critical because premature exposure can lay intellectual property (IP) open to theft. Yet, public disclosure can be a slippery slope when many inventors need to showcase their invention in order to gain additional funding. Without a secured date of filing, most people are practically giving their ideas away when they do that.

You may not think you have a BIG idea — or one that is worth protecting — but just ask yourself, how many times have you seen a commercial and said, “that was my idea!”? If a concept has any potential, it will never have tangible value without property rights.

According to U.S. laws, public disclosure of your invention results in loss of patentability after one year. That means, without filing to secure the date of your invention, it basically becomes public property after 12 months. You can avoid this pitfall by being the first inventor to file (FITF) and you can save a ton of money by starting with a provisional patent application (PPA).

What is a Provisional Patent Application (PPA)?

A (PPA) is the first step to taking ownership of your intellectual property. Consider it like staking your claim during a land rush. It preserves your right to the concept and ensures proprietary value. Immediately upon filing for a PPA, you are then free to tell the world you have a “patent pending” and you no longer have to worry about premature public disclosure.

The best part? Anyone can file a provisional patent application in the USA, even if you’re on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. All it takes is a vision and a little motivation.

A PPA buys you time to perfect your concept, produce more results, and create a working prototype. Since 2013, the United States has become a “first inventor to file” so a provisional patent application is a surefire way to protect anyone from stealing your idea. It establishes priority and satisfies the need to act quickly in a competitive and cutthroat market.

A Non-Provisional Patent

Of course, you’ll ultimately have to register your claim with the appropriate authorities by obtaining a “non-provisional patent.” A full examination of this paperwork must be conducted by a patent examiner at the USPTO to determine whether to grant the patent or not.

The official process can take up to 5 years, is quite costly, and more than 50% of applications do not pass. Additionally, it may be determined that someone else has filed a PPA in the interim and yours will subsequently be rejected.

Obtaining a non-provisional patent can be full of pitfalls and typically requires a patent lawyer. Starting with a provisional patent application allows an inventor more time to study the market, save money, and determine the true value of their invention; all without risking thousands of dollars or loss of invention rights. There are a variety of benefits a PPA provides to any budding business.

Benefits To Filing Provisional Patent Applications

Prior to making any sudden moves with your precious intellectual property, it’s important to do your research and understand which paperwork makes sense for you. That starts with understanding what a provisional patent application can offer an eager inventor.

Protection

You IP strategy starts with a provisional patent application because it is the first step towards immediately protecting your idea. A PPA allows you to market your invention without losing any patent rights. If you have any drawings or renderings already made, attach those to your PPA for extra protection. Photographs work great too. The more information you provide about your invention, the better.

Filing a PPA with the USPTO means you can now begin to market your invention as “patent pending.” That can be a powerful phrase when it comes to investors and will help to generate cash for further developments. Your PPA will last 12 months which will afford you time to pursue additional patent activities.

Lastly, a PPA provides protection because it gobbles up all the risk like a starving Pac Man. Not every invention is a success. If you file a PPA and a few months later decide the market is too crowded or your point of differentiation is weak, no problem. File a new or a repeat provisional or just bail out. You may only lose a few hundred dollars, as opposed to the tens of thousands of dollars, a lot of time and lost labor with a rejected non-provisional patent.

Affordability

Most inventors aren’t in it for the money, but the love. That means any affordable solution provides them with more cash toward their invention. Typical fees for filing a provisional patent application with the United States Patent Office are only $140 for small entities (think universities, individuals, and companies with less than 500 employees) and just $70 for “micro entities.”

Certain rules apply to micro entity status but either way, the alternative to filing a PPA is thousands of dollars. Not to mention loads of risk, e.g. losing property rights to the public, low-value filing options, or pursuing and failing to get a patent issued.

Once an inventor files a PPA, they can confidently approach manufacturers for quotes, buyers who want to secure a purchase order, vendors, consultants, investors, the list goes on. PPA’s can also allow room for inventors to make important discoveries that can vastly improve their invention and lead to increased market opportunities.

Applying for a provisional patent application is a fraction of the cost for obtaining a non-provisional patent. If you use a safe and automated online application tool for the process, you’ll fare even better on price.

Continuity

The best inventors know that inventing is a continual process. Just look at Steve Jobs and the iPhone. The invention process is iterative. Provisional patent applications are incredibly practical solutions for an inventor who intends to continue their work. A PPA affords you the space to keep inventing without all the anxiety of rushing to market.

Filing a PPA also allows you to announce “patent pending” to the world before you trust anyone with 3D renderings, prototypes, or engineer sketches of any sort. It’s important to get as much as you can on paper before moving forward and trusting the wrong person. Besides, you aren’t limited to filing just one provisional patent application. That’s the beauty of the process!

Conservation

The potential for inadvertent exposure is high when firms demo their wares at trade shows, conferences, and to potential investors. Filing for a provisional patent application conserves risk and allows the space for an inventor to grow their intellectual property portfolio. First-time inventors and startups aren’t the only companies that fall victim to exposing their product too soon.

Consider Nestlé’s popular Nespresso machine. They made a crucial mistake when their patent was invalidated in the UK. That’s because prior to filing a provisional patent application, the company sent 40 test machines to VIP customers in Switzerland and Belgium. They never asked them to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) (or any confidentiality agreement at all), which resulted in the market flooding with knock-off coffee pods, and ending in a loss of patent rights.

Even Apple wasn’t immune to making patent mistakes. In 2007, the late Steve Jobs demonstrated photo gallery features on the iPhone in a product launch presentation. Apple waited 5 months after the presentation to file a patent application in Europe. This resulted in German courts invalidating the patent in 2013. Tsk Tsk.

Another key form of conservation when filing a provisional patent application is that the Patent Office simply holds them. The PPA does not get examined. There will be no additional PTO or attorney fees until the PPA is converted into a non-provisional patent application. This allows you to conserve funds during the process and save thousands should you choose to back out of the process.

The Right Tools

The process of filing a provisional patent application has been made a lot easier thanks to modern technology. An engaging, user-centric software application can make filing the provisional application as simple as the click of a button. As inventors struggle with who to trust, legal complexity, and difficult choices, the right software can solve all those issues efficiently.

However, there are certain things you should look for before deciding on a tool that works for you. Here are a few key features to consider in a software solution before filing your PPA online:

Research Tools

To refine your point of distinction, you need to constantly research your invention in the market. There are major benefits to a tool that offers the ability to scour the internet for any intellectual property created before yours. Additionally, you should look for a platform that thoroughly examines competitor trends, social proof, comparative technology, and similar products.

Social Media Integration

The right platform should allow you to instantly market once the PPA is filed and you claim ownership. It’s encouraged that you announce your technology — and the immediate date of filing — to the public as soon as possible. Set social alerts to further brand awareness. Scream to the world “patent pending” (maniacal laughter optional).

Documentation Tools

Stake out the most attractive technology domains with the right PPA platform. A tool that allows an inventor to practice continuity is one that produces the best results. Document breakthroughs and keep your creativity flowing. Once your PPA is filed, you are relatively safe if you forget to ask for a confidentiality agreement.

Product Lifecycle

If you’re a good inventor or you intend to take your product to market, chances are you will be making improvements to your product. That means filing additional provisional patent applications whenever you reach a milestone. If you go on your own, that’s a fee each time. The right tool can offer you unlimited filing for a flat rate.

A successful online patent application platform will offer a subscription basis without having to charge for each provisional filing — highly interruptive to progress. For inventors that make many changes, filing multiple applications can benefit to no end with a feature like this.

Access to Legal Professionals

Choose a platform that provides valuable thought leadership from legal counsel. It should be a tool that works closely with legal professionals to offer advice or help consolidate the best provisional applications.

Access to Corporate Partners

The most successful online application tools will increase your chances of matching to relevant corporate partners. These professionals assist with tech development, can acquire product, and invest in your true potential.

In Conclusion

Filing a provisional patent application is akin to staking your claim. Inventing can be like the wild west and you need to protect your property. A PPA allows you to secure a date, it defends your intellectual property and mitigates serious risk. It helps you validate your technology and attract corporate partners, increase valuation, de-risk the business model for investors, and begin marketing your product as “patent pending.” Most importantly of all, it gives you the space to be the best inventor you can be.

Seventh.ai allows you to go back to being that dreamer, thinker, and creator while they take care of the tough stuff. They have one of the only online patent application tools that provide all the features above and allow inventors to continue innovating. Let’s get your property protected!

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