Provisional Applications in the USA
It is possible to file in the USA provisional patent applications whose sole purpose is to generate a priority right. A provisional application will never result in a granted patent and is not published.
Filing Provisional Applications
The main interest of provisional applications in the US is to establish a priority right for a very low initial cost and with minimum formalities. The official filing fees amount to USD 220 only (USD 110 for small entities), to which the service charge of a local patent attorney must be added. The formal requirements are not very strict and it is in fact possible to file any typed text as a provisional application. The object of the invention claimed in any subsequent application claiming this priority cannot extend beyond the global content of this application and it is thus necessary for the description to be sufficiently detailed from a technical point of view to fulfill this requirement. Most states further require that the invention can be realized on the basis of the teachings of the priority document.
Advantage of Provisional Applications
Provisional applications answer the needs of inventors who do not have the time or the means for immediately filing a definitive application. This can be the case for example of an individual inventor or a small company wishing to sell their innovation rather than working it themselves. It is possible in such a case to file a provisional application to establish a priority right before any market research. Provisional applications are also of interest if all the invention's commercial prospects are still uncertain or if the invention is likely to evolve from a technical point of view and it is still too early to describe the invention in a definitive manner.
Provisional applications in the USA also have another advantageous effect. It is a fact that in the USA, the patent right belongs not to the first to file but to the first inventor. A late applicant who is capable of proving that he conceived the invention before anyone will see the right to the patent acknowledged to him. It is however not possible to claim a conception date older than 12 months prior to the filing date of a patent on US territory, which prevents inventors from keeping their inventions in a draw for years and resurrecting them as soon as someone launches a product on the market. The filing of a provisional application in the US makes it possible to obtain at a low cost a very early filing date in the US which can subsequently be claimed in case of interference.
Applications without Fees in Switzerland or in Europe
If the possibility of claiming a very early conception date of the invention in the US is not essential, it is generally easier, safer and more economical for obtaining a priority right to file a patent application in Switzerland or in Europe without paying any fees. The application will then be rejected but only after having received a filing date and number that can be claimed as priority for subsequent applications.