A provisional application is an inexpensive way of signalling your intention to file full patent application later on. Think of it as a placeholder.
A priority date establishes the fact that you are the first person to file a new invention with us. While a provisional application doesn’t provide you with the protection of a full patent, it does give you up to 12 months to consider your options before deciding to proceed with a patent application.
If you do decide to apply for a standard patent, you can use the priority date from your provisional application. This can be particularly useful if there is a dispute over who came up with an idea first.
If you want long term protection for your invention, you may consider applying for a standard patent. Protection under a standard patent can last up to 20 years.
If you are thinking about expanding your business overseas, you can consider a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application for your invention. A PCT application will give you a quick indication of whether your invention can be patented. It also allows you to decide which countries you would like to have protection in.