A provisional patent application is an inexpensive and simple way to protect your invention while you are still in the process of fully fleshing it out, and deciding whether or not to file a full patent. Simply put, it allows you to buy some time – one year, to be precise (with no extensions allowed) – to assess the viability of your product in terms of profitability versus the production, distribution, and marketing costs before filing a non-provisional patent application.
The actual application filing date for the non-provisional type of patent marks the beginning of the official process of examination by the US Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) to find out whether your invention is patentable or not.
If you fail to file an application within the grace period, you automatically lose your right to that specific filing date, and put yourself at risk of losing invention ownership rights. Some people just let the 1-year deadline pass, especially if they have done enough study and are convinced that their invention is not viable enough to support a profitable business venture.
Because you are only allowed 1 year from the time of receiving a provisional patent, you have to act fast in determining the commercial potential of your product. As much as possible, you would want the patent attorneys you will hire for this crucial information-gathering stage to be on-board as soon as possible. While you may want to work only with trusted sources, there is no assurance that everyone you encounter will be a good match for your project at hand.
Viability and Profitability Study
You have to remember that each step at this phase is intended to accumulate as much data as possible that will help determine if your idea can be a profitable business proposition. This is the problem that you have to solve within a period of 1 year.
To help you solve the problem, there are some questions that you need to find the answers to. These include:
- What is your target market, and are there enough prospective customers in your target demographic?
- Who can afford to buy your product at retail price once it gets to the mass-production stage?
- How much would it cost to produce your invention in commercial volumes?
- Will your projected sales be sufficient to cover your production costs, as well as provide you with a decent profit?
- Are the raw materials you need readily accessible to ensure continuous production over the long term to make it worthwhile to pursue the project.
Answers to these questions will help give you an idea on whether to proceed with filing a non-provisional patent application or stop your planned project altogether.
Creating a Prototype
In making a prototype, a design engineer is required to bring your idea to life (assuming you cannot do it on your own). In case you decide to hire people, make sure to have them sign a written agreement stating that they will turn over any rights to you over whatever contributions they may have in your invention. This is to avoid possible conflicts in the futures.
Likewise, you have to inspect various manufacturing facilities that you can use, not only for building the prototype, but for the production of your invention for mass release as well. Evaluate each facility as to their capability, available production space, and cost.
Source of Funding
Where you will get the money to produce your invention in commercial volumes must be resolved once you have confirmed that your product can sustain viable business operations. A lot of inventors resort to crowdfunding. If you choose to go this route, you first have to find the appropriate crowdfunding site that will accept your type of invention. Various websites follow different policies on the kinds of inventions that they allow into their site.
In order to attract potential donors, you may need to invest on high quality and compelling videos, photos, and copywriting that clearly describes your invention, highlighting the benefits it will provide. Likewise, you may also have to spend for the various “incentive” levels that you can offer to donors, depending on the amount of their pledge.
If done right, crowdfunding can be a very effective way not only for getting your project funded, but also to gain an insight on the future market demand for your product. A lot of very profitable businesses today started out as modest crowdfunding campaigns that became a big hit to donors. However, there are no guarantees that a successful crowdfunding campaign would spillover once the business starts its commercial run.