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Pirate’s Rule #9: NOBOBY has a Provisional Patent.

There are three important pirates rules that apply to Provisional Patent Applications:


                 1. There is no such thing as a “Provisional Patent.”

                 2. There is no such thing as a “Provisional Patent.” and

                 3. There is NO SUCH THING AS A “PROVISIONAL PATENT.”


Despite innumerable internet ads that promise “Provisional Patents” for bargain basement prices, nobody has, nor ever had, nor can obtain, a “Provisional Patent.”  Period, full stop, cross my heart, and hope to DO-DO in my best flat-hat.

Congress did, some years ago, create a creature called a Provisional Patent Application (“PPA”).  This is a provisional application for a regular patent.  It is not an application for a “provisional patent.”  (See 1-3, above.)  The idea was to provide a low-cost means for poor inventors to get their toes in the door of the patent application process.

The plan did not work out particularly well.  A valid patent application must meet certain minimum standards.  The courts have found that many Provisional Patent Applications, being of a skeletal nature, do not meet those standards.  To get a Provisional Application drafted up to snuff, you can expect to pay about the same thing as you would pay for a full-up regular patent application.  That’s a long run for a short slide.

Now, I admit that on occasions, due to one or another time crunch, I have submitted Provisional Patent Applications for my clients.  But, I did so with my clients fully aware that the document would be of limited potential.  We did it because a PPA was all time would allow.

A Provisional Application merely serves as a place marker.  It provides, if properly drafted, a priority date for your follow-on Regular Patent Application, which must be filed within a year if that priority date is to be preserved.  With a PPA filed, you can legally mark your invention “Patent Pending.”

In my opinion, the greatest value of the PPA is that the solo inventor might be able to prepare one for himself.  With proper guidance, careful attention, and minimal expense, you can draft and file your own provisional application.  Books and software are available to assist in this task.  Allow, mate, that the resultant application might not be worth a cardboard dogging wrench.  But, if you cannot afford anything else, a “Do-It-Yourself” Provisional Patent Application may be better than nothing.  Maybe.  So use on at your own risk.

If you have an ongoing invention process, regularly updated PPA’s can ensure that you have the earliest possible filing priority date for your most recent version of the invention.  But, remember, your PPA will never mature into a patent.  Never.  In fact, your PPA will never even get examined.  When it arrives at the Patent Office, the technical shop stamps it, scans it, sends you a receipt, and promptly forgets the whole thing.  The only person likely to ever look at your PPA is the guy who wants to invalidate, or otherwise break, your patent.  You can bet HE will go over your PPA with a fine-toothed comb.  But, nobody else really cares.

So, be cautious when trusting in a provisional patent application.  Us it as a last resort, only.  And, remember, “There ain’t no such thing as a Provisional Patent.”

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