First, give yourself a pat on the back—because you did it!
Congratulations on submitting your provisional patent application. You’ve now joined the club of millions of people who have chosen to increase their startup’s value by applying for a patent. It truly is a milestone achievement. Just like any university graduate, you may be anxious about what life has in store for you next.
In this section, we’ll break down what life after the provisional patent looks like, and different patent strategies for you to take.
Life after the provisional:
Reap the benefits
Keep close track of time
Mature your provisional patent
As soon as you submit your provisional patent application, you can take advantage of the many benefits from filing a provisional.
The first benefit is the ability to use “patent-pending” after your idea’s name. That means you can safely bring your idea to market without worrying about a competitor stealing your idea. In addition, the term “patent-pending” sends a signal to your industry and customers that you’re serious about your idea, and plan to develop it further.
Another great benefit from provisional patents is the increased investor attention you’ll receive. Venture capitalists love patents because it’s a sign that you’ve invested time and energy into developing your unique idea. You can use your patent-pending status as a way to pique the attention of investors when pitching your startup.
A final benefit is that you’ve now secured an early filing date. This is important when you mature your provisional patent into a full patent (we’ll explain more about that below), because it gives you an advantage over competitors.
The patent system is a first-to-file system, not a first-to-invent system, meaning that the first person to file for a patent is the one who can claim the idea over someone else who may have invented an idea but failed to file.
When you file your provisional patent application, you’ve secured your place in line to file for a full patent. However, you only have 1 year to upgrade your provisional patent to a full patent—and it can be very easy to lose track of time when you’re busy bringing your idea to market and showing off your patent-pending status.
If you fail to mature your provisional patent during that 1-year timeframe, you will lose your priority filing status, and a competitor may take that status from you. So, be careful and pay extremely close attention to deadlines.
Many startup founders and inventors prefer to get help from a patent expert to manage their timelines. One year can fly by if you’re not paying attention!
A provisional patent is the starting point for your patent process, but it’s not the end of your patent journey. All provisional patents need to eventually become full patents, or else they will expire (and then what was the point of going through the provisional process in the first place?).
The good news is that if you’ve put in the hard work to prepare for your provisional patent, the full patent application will be that much easier. As long as you’re prepared to provide detailed claims in your full patent application, the work that you put into your provisional patent will not go to waste. Think of a provisional patent like taking a practice exam that gets you extra points on the final exam.
The final step to pass the exam is to mature your provisional patent into a full patent. That means you’ll file another application (in much more detail) to change your status from a provisional to a full patent. A full patent application must be filed within 12 months of your provisional application. If you don’t mature your provisional patent into a full patent, you will lose protection of your idea after 1 year.
When you mature your provisional patent into a full patent, you can also strategize in which countries you’d like to patent your idea. The same questions that you asked yourself in the beginning of the provisional patent process still apply to the full patent: Is your idea novel? Is your idea unique? Did anyone else patent your idea already?
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