A patent is a grant by the government of a special right to exclude others from making, using or selling the patented invention for a limited period of time. You can think of a patent kind of like a fence, where your invention is your property and the patent can serve as a "fence" around that property to keep others out.

In the US, there are three types of patents: utility, design, and plant.

  • Utility is the most common type of patent and covers physical products, processes and methods, software, and chemical compounds.
  • Design patents protect the ornamental appearance of an object and can be used to protect the aesthetic design of physical products and also can be used to protect the graphical user interface (UI/UX) aspects of software and mobile apps.
  • Plant patents are the least common type of patent and are used to protect certain types of plant varieties.

On the utility patent side, there can be a provisional utility patent application (sometimes called a provisional patent application or PPA) and a non-provisional utility patent application (this is just a "regular" patent application). There is not a provisional application for a design patent.

Provisional Patent Applications

A provisional patent application is a placeholder application that establishes a filing date of the invention as described in the application and provides "Patent Pending" status.

  • Establishes Patent Pending status
  • Serve as a placeholder to secure a filing date
  • Typically faster and cheaper to file than a non-provisional application
  • Provides some flexibility to make modifications or additions before filing non-provisional application

Provisional applications do have some drawbacks though:

  • Do not get in line to be examined
  • Do not issue as a patent (you still need a non-provisional application after a provisional application)
  • Can be ineffective if not done properly - sometimes the lack of some formal requirements for a provisional lulls applicants into thinking that a provisional does not have to meet certain requirements for all patent application. This assumption can lead to a deficient provisional patent application.

We can help you decide if a provisional is right for your specific situation and, if so, we can prepare a provisional that meets the stringent US Patent Office requirements.

Learn even more about the provisional patent application (PPA) and the process that we use here at Cygnet IP Law for PPAs by clicking here:

Provisional Patent Applications

Non-Provisional Patent Applications

A non-provisional patent application is simply a "regular" utility patent application. Here are some pros and cons of non-provisional applications:

  • Placed in line to be examined by a patent examiner at the US Patent Office
  • Can issue as a patent
  • Establishes patent pending status
  • Option to speed up examination timeline with additional fees is available

The drawbacks of a non-provisional application include:

  • Initially more costly than a provisional patent application (PPA)
  • Once filed, there is no opportunity to add new material to a non-provisional application

Design Patent Applications

Design patent applications protect the ornamental appearance of an object and can be used to protect the aesthetic aspects of an invention and can also be used to protect the visual aspects of software and mobile apps such as the graphical user interface (UI/UX) features.

  • Invention is based on the appearance of the object or user interface
  • Application is primarily drawings based.
  • Typically faster to prepare and file compared to utility applications.

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