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Do I need a provisional patent?

For any inventor who has considered filing for a patent, it is no surprise that the process is a long one. A patent will take over a year, and often will take two or more years. While there is a “fast track” application, you can still expect the process to take one to two years.

The process is also expensive. A patent can cost over $10,000 with no guarantee you will be able to make that money back when your product is on the market. Provisional patents may be temporary, but they might be a more affordable step before getting a patent.

Here are a few frequently asked questions about provisional patents.

How does it help?

A provisional patent and the act of completing your patent application have a similar effect. Both allow you to use the words, “patent pending” on your product. While the phrase does not allow you to sue someone for infringement, it does serve as a firm warning for anyone who might copy or steal your idea.

Although you get the same effect from both processes, a provisional patent is far less expensive than filing for a patent. At under $100, you get same the legal permission to label your product as having a patent in progress.

How long does it last?

A provisional patent lasts for one year. You can use that time to evaluate the market and decide if it is worth investing the extra time and money into getting a patent for your product. As you approach the expiration date, you can choose how you want to proceed.

Do I still need to file for a patent?

A provisional patent is not a substitute for a patent. You will still need to invest the time and money in a patent if you decide you want a patent for your idea. The provisional patent merely gives you time to test the market and use the “patent pending” phrase on your product.

Can I launch my product without it?

Although you have no obligation to file for a patent before launching your product, it is still an essential step in the product development process. A patent offers protection for you and others. When your application goes through the U.S. Patent Office, a team looks through existing patents to ensure someone else does not already hold a patent for that idea.

You could launch and market your product and never go through the patent process, but you would put yourself at risk for someone copying your product or for unknowingly infringing on someone else’s established patent.

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