While a provisional patent can give you short term, immediate protection, it does not mature into an enforceable patent. After a provisional patent is filed, you then have one year to file your non-provisional patent application or it expires. The applicant can do this by acting to convert the provisional application to a non-provisional application or by filing a non-provisional patent application, which claims priority from the provisional. The invention in the non-provisional application must be disclosed by the provisional application in order to receive the benefit of priority.
If the provisional application is properly prepared and non-provisional application is timely filed, this method could provide you with an earlier filing date. Filing a provisional patent does not guarantee you will ever receive a patent, but can act as a placeholder in appropriate circumstances.
A non-provisional patent, contrary to a provisional, is examined by the USPTO. These applications are far more detailed in preparation of the USPTO examination and must include at least one claim. Non-provisional patent applications require a much more detailed description and drawings of the invention you are trying to protect. The process may take multiple years, and you will be given an opportunity to cure certain items that the USPTO may require. If your patent is granted, you will be able to enforce the protection granted to you for twenty years from the earliest priority date. Thereafter, your invention may be freely used by others.
Kelly G. Swartz is a patent attorney licensed to practice in front of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and in the State of Florida. She limits her practice to intellectual property law including patent, trademark, copyright and trade secrets. More information about patents and other IP may be found at ww.IngenuityLaw.com.