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Don’t file a napkin provisional.
A “napkin provisional” is a short description of an idea, filed as a provisional patent application, with little more than a cover sheet to support it. The first patent that you file on your product is the foundation upon which your patent house is built.
Don’t build your house on sand.
Do it right. Do a search. Then figure out whether (and if so, how) to file.
Sometimes it makes sense to file a provisional patent application (instead of a utility patent application) in order to get an extra year of “patent pending” status. This is especially true for software, in light of recent court decisions and USPTO guidelines (issued 2014-12-15) for software (http://www.uspto.gov/blog/director/entry/guidance_on_subject_matter_eligibility).
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“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
– John Wooden, NCAA basketball player and coach
This is my 20th year of being a lawyer, and today I had my first deposition (about this trademark dispute, if you are curious: http://ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/v?qs=85804519). Being deposed is miserable, and it confirms my belief that Clocktower’s goal of trying to keep our clients *out* of litigation is a good one.
To achieve this goal, Clocktower (a) always does searches before filing patents or trademarks, (2) files patents and trademarks right the first time (e.g. no “napkin provisionals”), and (3) litigates matters only as a last resort and when settlement talks have failed.
Remember, to preserve your rights, file patents and trademarks *before* launching products.