When you should file for a provisional patent application.
When patenting an invention you have the option of filing for a provisional patent application or a nonprovisional patent application. When should you file a provisional application and when should you file a nonprovisional application? Here is when to file a provisional application.
Upcoming disclosure/disclosure deadlineIf you need to disclose the invention for any reason it is best to file the application before the disclosure. If you have an upcoming meeting with potential investors, getting molds built, or about to go to market and don't have time to prepare the full nonprovisional application then you want to file the provisional.
If you have already disclosed the invention you have one year to file application or you will lose the ability to patent. If this deadline is fast approaching and you don't have time to prepare and file the full nonprovisional application then you should file the provisional application.
Limited fundsNot every one is made of money. If you need to build up the funds to prepare and file a full nonprovisional application then you can get a "napkin" provisional application in to the USPTO quickly and cheaply. Once you have a larger budget you can then file the nonprovisional patent application.
Market considerationsLet's face it. You want a patent so you can monopolize the marketplace and make money with your invention. What happens if you spend thousands of dollars on a patent application but no one is buying your invention? Well, not only will you not be making money but now you have sunk costs as well. That brings up the last reason to file a provisional application. A provisional patent application allows you to obtain a filing date without spending as much money and test the market before filing the nonprovisional patent application. If the market exists and the product sells then you can file the nonprovisional patent application. If the market does not exist and the product doesn't sell then you would save your money and not file the nonprovisional application.
Research and developmentSometimes you know what you want to make but you're not sure exactly how you will build it. Perhaps you may want to utilize a sensor or a heat sink initially but end up with a different invention after your third iteration. This is when a provisional application can be useful. The provisional application will give you some initial coverage while you are still finalizing development. There is no sense in filing a nonprovisional patent application on your first prototype if the final product is going to change drastically and you would have to start over with a different filing. Disclosure requirements sometimes cannot be avoided and you sometimes have to file a new application but if you can apply some foresight then you can try to disclose all of the various potential embodiments of your invention in the provisional application. This will give you the flexibility needed for the development of the product while limiting the number of filings you need to do.