I generally write about 3 to 5 provisional patent applications per week. It used to be a lot more than that, but I've been writing more nonprovisional patent applications lately. (By the end of this year, I would have written over a 100!!) I wouldn't say writing provisional applications is my favorite thing to do, and there are certainly more interesting things to work on. But there are definitely reasons why provisional patent applications exist, and why most inventors file one.
Recently, someone I know has been asking whether provisional patent applications are necessary. Not a lot of people like writing it, so should we skip it all together and go straight to working on nonprovisionals?
Well, first, I'm a firm believer that just because you don't like doing something doesn't mean that you should not do it or that it's not important to do. For example: I hate to exercise. But it doesn't mean that I should not do it. Also, I do not like to get up early. But I have to if I am going to make it to work on time.
Enough examples.... So, is it a good idea to skip filing a provisional application altogether and dive straight into a nonprovisional application? For me, the answer is no.
First and foremost, I think it's important to file a provisional application because a provisional application gives you a filing date which you can claim as your priority date when it's time to file a nonprovisional patent application. This is important because U.S. is now on a first-to-file system, like many other countries. Basically under the first-to-file system, the earlier you file, the better. (This is different from a first-to-invent system, which used to allow inventors to file a declaration or an affidavit stating that they were the ones to invent something before someone else filed a patent application for the same invention.)
Preparing provisionals usually takes me about 2 to 3 days to complete, while preparing nonprovisionals usually takes me about 4 to 8 weeks. What does this mean? I get to file your provisional application sooner, giving you an earlier filing date.
Filing a provisional application is also nice because it gives inventors a one year window to get their finances together, to perfect their invention, or otherwise prepare themselves to file a nonprovisional application. Preparing and filing a provisional applications cost less than preparing and filing a nonprovisional application, so most inventors can afford to prepare and file one.
Also, having that one year window allows inventors to think a little more about their invention.
Finally, I like provisional applications because it keeps my docket in order. Provisional applications essentially give me a deadline in