Provisional patent applications give the inventor the right to label a product “Patent Pending”, which can have enormous business effects. The mere label of “Patent Pending” can be enough deterrent to keep competitors out of a business arena.
Provisional applications can be obtained with very little disclosure. In theory, a cocktail napkin with a figure and a little description may even suffice.
In some instances, it may be advisable for a client to seek a provisional patent application merely for the “Patent Pending” status without filing a non-provisional application a year later. Instead, the client may file another provisional application for the improvements made to a product over the previous year. This process may go on for eternity, provided that each provisional patent application reflects some change to the product made over the previous year.
In general, I will not do this practice for new clients, but I have discussed it with existing clients as a possibility. In many cases, a client has a product that does not have a very big market. The market for the product will not justify the business case for going forward with a patent. However, the market may justify spending a couple hundred dollars on a provisional patent application. If at some time the market takes off, a non-provisional application may be filed. If the product does not justify the expense, another provisional may be filed to keep the “Patent Pending” status and the previous provisional may be abandoned.