Very simply, a provisional patent gives you patent protection for 12 months. At the end of those 12 months, you have a choice: pay for the utility patent (the one that costs anywhere from $4,000-$15,000+ depending on how complex your invention is) or walk away and lose your patent protection. Virtually all inventors should take advantage of this.
For one thing, a provisional patent is much cheaper than a utility patent. InventHelp patent agency, for example, can get you set up with a provisional patent. If you are serious about getting a patent, this is a worthwhile investment.
Once you have your provisional patent, you can spend the next 12 months testing the waters. You can network with potential buyers or licensees, or even try creating a business around the patent. In the eyes of the US Patent and Trademark Office, you are the patent holder during that 12 month timeframe. This is an extremely valuable window of opportunity that you should use to your full advantage.
Let what happens during those 12 months decide whether you get the utility patent or not. For example, if you find entrepreneurs, retailers, or manufacturers who are interested in selling or licensing the patent, this is a good sign. Ditto for other signs of interest, such as a retailer offering to stock the invention, an investor willing to mass-produce the invention, or an eager list of customers who can’t wait to buy the invention.
You would be well-served to get the utility patent and take full ownership of this intellectual property that people are obviously interested in.
On the other hand, if your attempts to drum up interest in the patent result in slammed doors, unreturned phone calls, or an overall lack of interest, this might suggest paying for the utility patent would be a bad idea. Or maybe it would still make sense. Just make sure you have a good reason for thinking so. If nobody was interested this year, what makes you think anyone will be next year?
When thousands of dollars and years of your time are at stake, it pays to be as honest and realistic with yourself as possible.
If you want to learn more and need help for your new invention idea about any aspect of patents (from writing a good patent license, to choosing a patent attorney, to determining your patent’s market value and more), feel free to browse the extensive InventHelp article library.