This program allows time for establishing the value of inventions, before investing in more permanent type patents. This is an important way to help new inventors reserve more of their funds for invention development, rather than needing more up-front money to invest in patents and before having the opportunity to fully test-market their inventions.
One Year Length Provisional Patents
The Provisional Patent Program (PPP) which was established by the USPTO in the year 1995 has in one-sense replaced a former program discontinued by the USPTO that was called the “Disclosure Document Program” (DDP). The DDP was a method offered to establish an invention’s “date of conception” but offered no real protection and was discontinued in the year 2007.
A provisional patent offers an established date of conception for inventions and much more. This includes a trial period for test-marketing and selling an invention for one year, before an inventor follows through with one of three more permanent types of patents. Continuing with longer-term patients is optional under the PPP and an inventor may instead allow it to lapse if he feels his invention does not merit further patenting.
The three longer term patents which are 14 years in duration include the following:
- design patents (design for an article of manufacture)
- industrial patents (a new and useful process of manufacture or composition of matter)
- plant patent (new asexually produced variety of plant)
Securing a “Patent Pending” Status
Formerly, when inventors sent their invention-descriptions in to the USPTO under the Disclosure Document Program, they would do so to establish a “date of conception”, meaning proof of the date in which they established having invented it. This program, however, was not a protection for the invention as a provisional patent is and also did not allow-for the inventor placing the “patent pending” notation on their invention, it’s packaging and promotional materials. This is the advantage that the still-affordable provisional patent has over the former, lower cost DDP.
A Cost of $105.00 for Small Entities
The USPTO offers provisional patents to small entities, meaning individuals or companies that have less than 500 employees, for a nominal fee of only $105.00 (please check the USPTO website for price updates). This is a very cost-effective price because an inventor is allowed to test market his invention for one year after notification that they have received and accepted a PPP application.
If during the one-year, an inventor discovers that the invention does not merit following through with a more permanent patent, at additional costs, he can allow the term to expire and forfeit the option to continue the patenting processes. If an inventor decides his invention is not worth the obtaining of a longer term patent (14 years), he can simply allow the provisional patent to lapse and he will have no further patenting costs or obligations with the USPTO. If, however, the value of the invention is proven during the one-year grace period, the inventor may choose to invest further, to obtain a longer-term patent.
Opportunity for License Agreements
A major value of the one-year grace period provided by the PPP is that the worth/value of the invention can be established, with a much-lower risk of theft of the inventor’s product-invention. It is also valuable in-that an inventor may pursue a licensing (royalty agreement) during the one-year grace period.
If any further patenting is done, it would be the responsibility of the “licensee” (if specified contractually). This means the party paying royalties on sales for marketing an invention under a License Agreement, would be responsible for patent updates, should an inventor (“licensor”) secure a licensing for his invention before the one year period has expired.
See the link in the “Sources” section below, that goes to the USPTO webpage, which gives detailed information about the PPP. The page also gives instructions on how to apply for a provisional patent and the address for sending applications and payment, to secure a provisional patent status for an invention.