The patent application process is notoriously complex. It often takes individual inventors or inventive companies over a year to fully complete a patent application before it is ready for submission to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
This lengthy process of preparing an application can be stressful for many reasons. One, that is particularly consequential, is that the longer it takes an inventor to complete their application, the more likely it is that the novelty of their work will be compromised by claims of the prior art.
It is vitally important that the patent application process isn’t rushed, because a patent won’t be granted if an application is insufficiently supported. However, a patent application will also be denied if an inventor has waited so long to submit it that their work is no longer novel.
To make this situation more manageable, applicants for utility and plant patents are permitted to submit a provisional patent application within 365 days before submitting their final, non-provisional patent application. If a non-provisional patent application is approved, the novelty of an applicant’s invention will be assessed according to the filing date of the provisional patent application, not their non-provisional patent application.
Securing a patent
Because the timing challenges and nuances of both application processes are so complex, it is generally a good idea for any individual or business that is interested in seeking patent protection to research their options as soon as they are getting close to finalizing an invention, process or innovative design. That way, they will benefit from the greatest chance to time their application submissions to their benefit.