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Disadvantages of filing a Provisional Patent Application (PPA)

Many people, unfortunately, see PPAs as a quick path to a patent — and are not aware of the pitfalls. So I thought I’d take a moment here to describe two significant disadvantages of a Provisional Patent Application:

(1) Many times (unfortunately too many times), the PPA applicant uses the PPA as a shortcut, and doesn’t do as thorough of a job at researching and disclosing information about his or her invention as he or she would with a traditional patent application.

(2) This is similar to (1), in that a PPA doesn’t require the applicant to file Claims. To many, Claims are the “heart” of the patent application. In many cases, writing the Claims greatly influences how how the rest the patent application is prepared. They go hand in hand. Without the need to draft Claims, the applicant may or may not prepare the PPA disclosure in such a way that solid, supportable Claims can be written later in the full application. And that would be catastrophic as described in this article.

I can’t underscore point (2) above enough. For individuals who have never written a patent application before, it is very difficult to have a firm grasp of the critical nature of the Claims — and the very precise interdependency of all the elements of a patent application. I would guess that someone filing a PPA by him or herself, without having gone through the process of at least one full-fledged patent application prior, the likelihood of being able to prepare solid Claims in the full patent application down the road are extremely slim. Said another way, the chances for a catastrophic problem with the full patent application are very high.

There are other reasons that I don’t particularly recommend a PPA for a first-time inventor – but some of these are more technical in nature and would be difficult to describe here.

Sure, for experienced inventors with a number of patents / patent applications under their belts, a PPA can be a useful tool. For instance, a PPA saves upfront costs. It also enables the invention to immediately be marketed as “Patent Pending”. And a PPA gives the inventor up to one year to research whether or not the invention may be profitable in the marketplace…and thus one year to determine whether he or she would want to file a full-fledged patent application. Therefore, hiring a professional patenting agency like InventHelp is advisable.

But, as I said above, I think the likelihood that a first-time inventor can take advantages of these benefits is slim. That’s just my opinion, based cases that I’ve come across. Other people may think otherwise, and I certainly respect those opinions.