Firms have been filing provisional patent applications in the U.S. for nearly two decades, and the impending transition to a first to file system is expected to expand the popularity of the procedural mechanism. However, some are wondering if the rate of activity is an accurate indicator of the strategy's true value.
Provisional applications are often considered a wise way to begin the patenting process, as they allow inventors to affordably secure an initial disclosure date while exploring the potential of their idea and/or compiling a more substantive application.
A record number of applicants subscribed to this logic in fiscal year 2012, with more than 160,000 provisional patent application filed with the USPTO. But while the popularity of this strategy is not in doubt, its relevance may be.
As PatentlyO's Dennis Crouch alluded to in an independent analysis, little more than half of those provisional applications are ever relied upon as priority documents. With that said, some wonder whether firms may be using it as a defensive tactic as opposed to a strategic necessity.