A patent specification is a techno-legal document that contains the specific scientific details of the invention and the claims to the patent rights. In a patent specification, the applicant is required to disclose the invention completely. This disclosure must include the best possible way of performing the invention. The specification must be so comprehensive that it must enable an ordinary person skilled in the same field as the invention relates to, to perform the invention without undue effort. It is, therefore, clear that a specification is an indispensable part of the patent application.
A patent specification may be Provisional or Complete.
Provisional Patent Specification:
When an invention has reached a stage where it can be disclosed on paper but it is not complete, a provisional patent application may be filed to claim a priority date. A provisional specification reveals the invention for which the patent is sought sans the claims. This means that while the invention is disclosed, the formal patent claims need not be submitted just yet. A provisional patent application must be followed by a complete specification within 12 months from the date of filing the provisional specification.
Merits of a provisional patent application:
Priority Date: A provisional application reserves a date for the patent. Essentially, when the complete specification is filed within 12 months of filing the provisional specification, the date of application of the patent will be the date on which the provisional application was filed. This secures the priority date for the invention against any other invention being developed in the same field.
12 months: The applicant has 12 months to completely develop and define his invention. During this time, the applicant can meticulously patent draft the complete specification with the claims. This period of 12 months can also be used to determine the economic feasibility of the patent.
Cost: A provisional patent costs less as compared to a complete specification (in the initial stage). If the patent is commercially viable then the higher cost can be spent in obtaining the patent.
Patent Pending: After filing a provisional patent application the applicant can use the term Patent Pending insofar as the invention for which the patent is applied is concerned. This could act as a bulwark against potential infringers.
Demerits of a provisional patent application:
Abandoned: If the complete application is not filed within 12 months from the date on which the provisional application was filed, the application will be abandoned. This means that the applicant can no longer claim the priority date.
Substantially Similar: The invention disclosed in the provisional specification must be as equal to the complete specification. The invention disclosure has to be substantially similar in the provisional as well as the complete specification. The provisional specification must include an enabling description of the invention and its best mode. This essentially means that provisional specification must be framed to cover same as that of the complete specification.
On the whole, a provisional patent application is a very useful tool. Particularly, for securing a priority date for an invention that requires time to be developed fully. As long as precaution is taken to draft the provisional specification effectively and to file the complete specification within 12 months, a provisional application helps the applicant gain time to refine his invention and draft the complete specification comprehensively.