One type of patent is known as a provisional patent application. It is also often abbreviated as PPA (“Provisional Patent Application”).
The above-mentioned PPA pends for one year, and gives true “patent pending” rights during that time. It also serves as a priority document for any utility patent application filed during that one-year period of pendency.
There are few formalities with a PPA, and the government filing fee is substantially lower than for a utility patent application. By comparison, for a utility patent application, formal drawings may be required, claims are necessary, a signed Declaration is necessary, and other formalities must be observed as well.
Trade Secret Protection
A pending patent application is evidence of what an inventor regards as trade secret information. Trade secrets are protected strongly in state and federal courts throughout the US, and having a pending patent application documents the date, the ownership, and the details of the trade secret information. In direct dealings between an inventor and others (such as distributors, retailers, and investors), trade secret rights may very well have great importance.
Longer and/or better patent rights
Many companies feel a PPA effectively extends patent protection by one year, and in some ways this may be true. It cannot actually extend the life of a utility patent application, but it does extend the patent pending period, which can be very advantageous. Further, a PPA may confer rights not given to a utility patent application alone, for example liability for patent infringement can occur even while a utility patent application pends – this is somewhat complex and a lawsuit cannot be filed until the utility patent is issued, but the protection can nonetheless be very important: because it may backdate some of the infringement liability, it may discourage competitors from copying the invention even while the patent application pends.
Please feel free to contact us, at no charge or obligation, for further details and/or cost estimates.