Sunday, August 1, 2010

Filing a Provisional Patent Application (PPA) Myself

I’m going to go ahead and file a provisional patent application for a new invention idea with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to obtain some protection for my invention.

I've come up with a really neat new thread locking method, at least I think it is, and I think it is patentable. I’ve used the USPTO and Google Patents to search for prior art, but haven't seen anything at all that would make my new idea "obvious" in the eyes of a patent examiner.

The All Important "One Year Rule"

Should you for any reason not file within one year of a sale of your invention, offer for sale, or use your invention commercially or in public, or disclose to the public a description of your invention, your invention becomes prior art. Therefore if you file for a patent, you won’t be able to get it because the novel feature of your invention will already be prior art from the public disclosure.

Also, publically disclosing your invention will terminate your ability to obtain foreign patent rights in most if not all foreign countries. If you are anticipating obtaining foreign patent protection and you need to make you invention public in some manner, then you can file a PPA first, and then publish. You have one year from your US filing date to file for foreign patents, and they consider the PPA as a valid filing date assuming you follow up with a real patent application within one year of filing the PPA.

Is My New Idea Marketable

I’m not sure if my new invention idea is something I will be able to market. I can use that one year period to investigate the marketability aspect.

When the patent office receives your PPA, it doesn’t look at it, it just files it. If you fail to file a real patent application within one year of filing the PPA, the patent office simply throws the PPA away. Unless you reference it in your real application it might as well never have been filed.

Provisional patent applications are not available for Design patents, only Utility and Plant patents.

Provisional Patent Applications Are Easy To Prepare

• The PPA requires a detailed description of your invention describing how to make it and how to use it.

• Drawings if needed for clarification in making and using the invention

• A cover sheet and a fee transmittal form

• A fee. The amount can be found on the USPTO website

• A self-addressed return receipt postcard

If you are filing electronically, then you won’t need a cover sheet or return postcard. The cover sheet gets created automatically if you file electronically.

Provisional patent applications do not require:

• A Patent Application Declaration

• In Information Disclosure Statement

• An abstract and summary

• A description of the invention’s background

• A statement of the invention’s advantages

A PPA Does Not Need Claims

A provisional patent application does not need to recite any claims. The claims define the scope of your invention protection, and thus are extremely important, especially considering all the legalese required for the legal language. I prefer to work with a patent attorney for the real application.

A PPA only requires a clear description of your invention in enough detail for someone of ordinary skill in the art to build and use it. If an element of your invention is not described, then it will not obtain protection. It must be clearly revealed in the PPA to support your real patent application.

Use Broad Coverage Language

If you do write your own PPA, be sure to make the language you use as broad as possible so as not to accidently narrow the scope of your invention. For instance, if your invention uses a gear to transmit power from one element to another, instead of referring to it as a "gear", refer to it as a means of transmitting power from element a to element b. Thus it could be a gear or a chain, or a driveshaft etc.

More basic information about patents.