Do you have an idea that you’ve started to develop, but aren’t 100% sure you can sell? It is incredibly important to determine if there is legitimate interest in your product idea before you invest time, energy, and money. Is the idea so beneficial that a company is going to want to license it from you? Are you sure consumers will actually buy your product because they need or want it? These questions aren’t always easy to answer immediately; you may need weeks or months do to research, to test the waters. But during that time, you’re going to want to be protected. Filing for a patent can cost upwards of twenty, thirty thousand dollars, easily. But filing for a provisional patent application (PPA), which protects your intellectual property for one year, costs only several hundred dollars. The USPTO has given independent inventors everywhere a very useful tool in creating the PPA. I interviewed Michael Neustel, Patent Attorney & designer of the software “PatentWizard,” to help explain you why you should use it.
The application is appropriate for inventors who are in the beginning stages of bringing a product to market because it is inexpensive and protects your ownership of the idea for up to one year. In that year, it’s possible to determine if there is interest in your idea and if you should invest more money and time into it. Too many inventors file for patents for ideas that aren’t great and for products that don’t sell, never recouping the cost of filing for the patent. As Neustel explained, PPAs delay the up-front costs of your idea – costs you should only be willing to take on confidently. In the meantime, you’re able to describe your idea as “patent pending,” sending a clear message to your competition that your idea isn’t available for poaching.
Although it is possible to file for the application yourself, the trick is finding a great source to help guide you through it. If you’re on a budget, I recommend buying software that can help you instead of hiring a patent attorney or agent. The software I use, “PatentWizard,” is easy to use and allows you to file as many PPAs as you want to. However, as Neustel warned, if you’re going to file yourself, “Do not become complacent in the preparation of the application – every extra hour you put into writing the provisional patent application just makes your intellectual property foundation stronger.”
If you self-draft your application, make sure to include everything. Leaving out important information can result in the loss of patent rights. “Although a provisional patent application is not an actual patent, it does provide the foundation for your future patent. A weak provisional is similar to a weak foundation of a house,” verified Neustel. Even if you have an attorney or patent agent help you, review the work! Small mistakes can have huge implications for your rights.
Please, start getting comfortable with writing PPAs. They are an invaluable resource.