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By J.D. Houvener
Patent Attorney and Founder

JD: So, I’ve come up with an idea for a product, and my goal is to license it to a company. The first step is protecting my idea, and I’ve seen multiple takes on what kind of patent protection I should get. Here’s some information on my product:

  • It will be an accessory to an existing company’s product.
  • It is less than 10 inches at its longest point.
  • It is made entirely of plastic with a slightly complex design.
  • It will probably cost around three cents to produce.

Based on the research I’ve done so far, getting a provisional patent seems like the best course of action to protect it while I pitch it to companies for a year. However, some sources say that filing a provisional patent is terrible and worse than filing none at all.

So, with the information I’ve provided, should I file a provisional patent, a utility patent, or do something totally different to protect the idea?

Great question and very thoughtful! It looks like you’re gathering some information, researching on your own, and talking to some colleagues about what you should or shouldn’t do.

If you think what you’ve invented is unique, even if it’s a simple, low-cost plastic design, you ought to have a conversation with a patent attorney. Do some professional research to see if your invention is truly novel, non-obvious, and has enough utility to move forward with patentability. If it meets all three of these criteria, you should file at least a provisional patent application.

I highly encourage you, as an inventor, not to draft the provisional on your own. The provisional will form the basis of the formal non-provisional patent application. The non-provisional application is what is examined at the patent office and will eventually become the claims that you own at the end of the granted period. The provisional can provide you up to one year to go to market, test your product, build it, and iterate on it.

However, one of the biggest problems we see is that if you don’t write a robust and broad enough provisional application, when it comes time to write the non-provisional, you may have to add new matter or findings. If this new information is different enough from the provisional, you might not be able to claim priority back to the provisional application. This could mean that another inventor somewhere else in the world who filed a similar invention during that one-year period might win the right to that invention, not you.

So, be very careful about what’s filed and how thorough you are when writing a patent application. If your invention is unique and has big market potential, I recommend having a provisional application filed with the help of a professional patent law firm to ensure it’s done the right way.

About the Author
J.D. Houvener is a Registered USPTO Patent Attorney who has a strong interest in helping entrepreneurs and businesses thrive. J.D. leverages his technical background in engineering and experience in the aerospace industry to provide businesses with a unique perspective on their patent needs. He works with clients who are serious about investing in their intellectual assets and provides counsel on how to capitalize their patents in the market. If you have any questions regarding this article or patents in general, consider contacting J.D. at