In the United States, to obtain patent protection, the law requires that you file an application with the patent office within one year of disclosing the invention to the public, using the invention in public, or offering the invention for sale. The patenting process can be a complex and lengthy process, typically taking between 2 and 5 years. The process and expenses may be compounded by seeking international protection.
File a Provisional Patent Application
The provisional application is not examined by the Patent Office and functions as a placeholder for a subsequently filed nonprovisional patent application. An inventor has one year from the filing date of the provisional application in which to file a nonprovisional patent application for the same invention, claiming the benefit of the filing date of the provisional application.
File a Nonprovisional Patent Application
The nonprovisional patent application (also referred to as a regular application or a utility patent application) is examined by the Patent Office and may ultimately issue as a patent. Because the Patent Office examines the applications received in chronological order, filing the nonprovisional patent application inserts the application in the examination queue sooner than first filing a provisional patent application.
Seek International Patent Protection
Along with domestic filings, patent protection may be simultaneously sought in foreign countries. PCT patent applications are typically filed when seeking protection in multiple jurisdictions. The receiving office performs an international patent search and prepares a preliminary report on patentability. The PCT application grants at least a 30-month window with which to file a national patent application in countries where protection is desired.