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I want to protect my invention as soon as, and as fast as possible with a provisional utility patent for the software and hardware design, and then have 12 months to complete the claims, etc. for the corresponding non-prov patent appl.

I have a completed product: It's a simple, Printed Circuit Assembly (PCB) with a sensor, an off the shelf processor running my proprietary software algorithm.

I have a large prospective customer, and I'm now testing my PCB on their equipment. All looks good.

If I file a provisional patent there seem to be these benefits: 1. I nail down a date for eventual non-provisional filing. 2. Takes much less time than non-prov filing (no claims needed)

Provisional patent will have "sufficiently detailed."

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Is a provisional utility patent the way I need to go?

Possibly, but not for the reasons you suggest.

A good provisional does not take less time than a non-provisional, as the drafting process is basically the same. Even if you don't file claims in the provisional for some reason, you will still need to have had the claims drafted (to ensure that you have support).

While there are technically no formality requirements for a provisional (and so you do not need to file claims), you would still typically want to comply with the requirements of a non-provisional. If you file a poor quality specification as a provisional, you will likely end up having an invalid priority date, meaning the provisional (and possibly the later non-provisional, depending on any intervening disclosure) will be worthless.

The benefits of a provisional

The benefits of a provisional filing are that you extend the ultimate patent term and you defer the main costs for a year.

A provisional gives you an extra year of patent term. That is, you have a 20 year patent, plus the one year from filing the provisional. In this manner, a provisional is like any kind of priority claim.

A provisional is much cheaper to file, and involves no examination. These costs are therefore pushed back by a year.

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