Smart Invention Protection, with a Provisional Patent Application
Protect your invention the smart way, with a provisional patent application strategy. This is the patent protection system employed by industry giants like WalMart. They use the provisional patent application for early protection and to test the market.
"97% to 99% of patents never make money," said Scott J. Cooper, CEO and Creative Director of World Patent Marketing. "When I launch a product, I file a provisional patent application . I usually do it myself and don't even waste time with a patent attorney. A provisional patent application costs almost nothing to file. I would rather spend my money on product development, gaining customer intelligence and marketing. There are going to be so many changes made to the product along the way, so what's the point? If everything looks good in six months, then I'll step up and file for a patent."
According to Gene Quinn, a patent attorney and the founder of IP Watchdog, "I am frequently asked about the benefit of filing a provisional patent application. I am a big fan of provisional patent applications and encourage independent inventors, small businesses and universities to start the patent process by filing a provisional application whenever possible. In fact, now that the U.S. is a first to file country the best practice is to file a provisional patent application as early as feasible, and you also probably want to file multiple applications as your invention continues to take shape."
Why File a Provisional Patent Application When I Can Just Get a Patent
There are two big reasons, one is that in recent years the USPTO has changed patent rights to a 'first-to-file' system. This means that the first inventor to file is entitled to the proceeds from the invention. Since intellectual property is so valuable, this means that large companies want to file as quickly as possible to protect their idea every step of the way. They file provisional patents as every piece of their invention is completed.
The second reason ties in with the first. A provisional patent application is less expensive and time-consuming to file. If there are several key components to your invention, you want immediate protection as they are developed, but there is no reason to go through the more expensive and demanding process of a full patent application for each one. The provisional patent application gives you early protection for each component, at an affordable cost.
And this all comes back to the fact that 97% of patents don't make any money. You need patent protection to begin prototyping, developing and marketing your invention. You want some kind of protection to show it to all of the necessary people, like investors, designers and engineers. But, the truth is, success is no sure thing. The provisional patent offers a more affordable way to protect your invention idea, one that gives you "patent pending" status, without the time and expense required for a full patent. The provisional offers a window of time to test your product, at a reasonable cost.
WalMart's Use of the Provisional Patent Application
Let's take a look at how Walmart deals with new product ideas and patents. Walmart is worth around $222 billion and is the largest employer in the world, so I think we can assume that these are some pretty smart folks.
Recently WalMart filed a patent for a self-driving shopping cart. The cart will be motorized. Customers needing the service will be able to "call" the cart to their vehicle, with the use of a smartphone app. After it has been used, the cart will automatically return to its docking/charging station. Obviously, there are more than a few pieces of high-tech innovation going on in this invention, including the "call" system, and the need of the cart to avoid vehicles and pedestrians through a system of cameras and self-guiding software.
WalMart did not wait until all of the pieces of the puzzle were complete to file for their patent. Instead, they filed a series of provisional patent applications to lock in their rights to each piece of the self-driving shopping cart as it was developed. The following is a list of the provisionals, which were eventually rolled into a final patent.
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/157,388, filed May 5, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/165,579, filed May 22, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/165,416, filed May 22, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/165,586, filed May 22, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/171,822, filed Jun. 5, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/175,182, filed Jun. 12, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/182,339, filed Jun. 19, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/185,478, filed Jun. 26, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/194,131, filed Jul. 17, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/194,119, filed Jul. 17, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/194,121, filed Jul. 17, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/194,127, filed Jul. 17, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/202,744, filed Aug. 7, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/202,747, filed Aug. 7, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/205,548, filed Aug. 14, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/205,569, filed Aug. 14, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/205,555, filed Aug. 14, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/205,539, filed Aug. 14, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/207,858, filed Aug. 20, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/214,826, filed Sep. 4, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/214,824, filed Sep. 4, 2015;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/292,084, filed Feb. 5, 2016;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/302,547, filed Mar. 2, 2016;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/302,567, filed Mar. 2, 2016;
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/302,713, filed Mar. 2, 2016; and
- U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/303,021, filed Mar. 3, 2016.
They used a series of provisional patent applications to protect their invention as it was developed and perfected. This provided them with a lower cost opportunity and more security. You can assume that not every idea they had along the way made it into the last patent, many were discarded on the way. The point is, the provisional patent gave them the opportunity to test and reject their ideas as they moved forward. They were able to discard those that did not pan out, and pursue those that added value to the final invention.
How Inventors Can Use the Provisional Patent Application
How does this apply to the average inventor/entrepreneur? After all, filing all those provisional patent applications just looks like a lot of extra work. The key to keep in mind is that provisional applications can be filed more quickly and at considerably less cost.
Suppose your invention idea is not nearly as complex as a self-driving shopping cart. Let's assume that it can be summarized in a single application and it is ready to go now. You have a choice, you can put all of the time and expense into a patent, or you can take the down and dirty route and file a provisional patent application.
With the provisional, you will have patent pending status and full protection for more than a year. At the end of that time, if your invention looks likely to succeed, you can convert to a full patent. If it doesn't seem to be successful, you will have saved time and money that would have been wasted.
And here is the important part, the time and money that is saved, can be invested in one of your next invention ideas. That is why large companies use this strategy. They are trying to sift through possibilities as quickly as possible. They are sorting through thousands of ideas quickly, to find the needle in the haystack that will turn a profit. Inventors who use this strategy greatly improve their odds of success. The provisional patent application is an important tool in this strategy.
Find out how to file a provisional patent today.