What high fashion is to the Paris Fashion week, outdoor gear is to the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market happening this July in Salt Lake City, Utah. The event is the largest outdoor sports show of its kind, and in 2016, brought together over 6,000 retail buyers. The Summer Market serves to link outdoor apparel and sports products manufacturers with these retailers, showcasing emerging trends and innovative turns in the industry. These types of trade shows are always promising for entrepreneurs and companies developing new products, as unveiling a new product brings the lure of favorable publicity, potential investors, and hopefully big sales.
But before an individual or company submits their registration form for one of these trade shows, it’s prudent to take appropriate steps to secure protection of your intellectual property. If the intellectual property in question has a functional design, or utility, then one way to do this is to file a provisional patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A provisional patent offers a lower-cost option for establishing an early effective filing date for a non-provisional application that must be filed within 12 months under 35 U.S.C. §111(a). In this way, product developers can get their foot in the door on patent protection, without developing formal claims, or submitting the oath or declaration required by a nonprovisional patent. A provisional patent also allows use of the term “Patent Pending,” which may help fend off potential infringers. Despite provisional patent applications being unexamined, a complete application remains imperative as omission of design details can cause big headaches for securing future patent coverage. Provisional applications must be followed-up within one year by a regular filing. Also note you cannot protect ornamental designs in provisionals, so make sure you understand what you are and are not protecting with a provisional filing.
So, as tempting as it is to release your product or idea onto the market as soon as possible, take heed. Spending some extra time upfront to make sure your intellectual property is properly protected before debuting it is well worth the wait, even if that means keeping your invention under wraps while you attend the Summer Market just to scope out the competition.