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The IP Corner: Provisional v. Non-Provisional Patent Applications

Author: Kristi L. Davidson, Partner, Wood, Herron & Evans, L.L.P   |   Document Download   |   Product code: ZHTP00907P14

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When a decision is made to pursue a patent on an invention, an application for patent must be filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). There are two types of patent applications from which to initially select. The first is a provisional application, and the second is a non-provisional application. Before expanding on them, it is first important to dispel an unfortunate myth: the poor man's patent. Some people mistakenly believe that an invention can be protected by writing it down, sealing it in an envelope, and mailing it to oneself, preferably by certified mail. It is well-recognized and accepted that a poor man's patent does not provide the exclusionary right provided by the USPTO in granting a Letters Patent. In the United States, the first to invent is entitled to a Letters Patent, provided they did not abandon, suppress, or conceal the invention. At best, the poor man's patent can be evidence for proving a date of invention, but in reality, such evidence is of little to no value. Other ways will prove more valuable, such as an inventor (or lab) notebook with each page signed and dated by the inventor and witnessed by another who asserts that they have read and understood what is written on the page. Thus, while a poor man's patent may be seen as a cheap alternative to the cost of preparing, filing, and prosecuting a patent application before the USPTO, it is one situation where you get what you paid for, if that.

  • From:

    Heat Treating Progress, Volume 9, Number 7, November/December 2009 (ASM International)

  • Published: November 01, 2009
  • Pages: 3