What are the time limits for filing a patent application?
Before making plans for the timing of the filing of a patent application, any inventor should seek advice of competent counsel. The time periods described here represent only a few of the factors that will influence how quickly a patent application should be filed.
Under U.S. patent law, a patent will not be granted to an applicant unless the application is filed less than one year from the date that the invention was sold or offered for sale within the United States. Yet another condition imposed under U.S. patent law is that the patent will be denied unless the application is filed within one year of the date the invention was described in a printed publication anywhere in the world.
While these are the two most commonly mentioned so-called “statutory bars” in U.S. patent law (35 USC section 102), they are by no means the only factors that should be taken into account when one decides when to file a patent application (or, when to consult patent counsel). Numerous other factors influence the timing of the filing of a U.S. patent application. For one thing, there is always the possibility that someone else has filed or will soon be filing a patent application on the same subject matter. The sooner you file, the more likely it is that you will prevail against someone else who has filed or is about to file.
Even if the invention has not been publicly divulged there are reasons to file a patent application sooner rather than later. Filing the application sooner will help to some extent in prevailing over others who happen to have
developed the invention independently and who also file a patent application. In the United States two approaches are possible to the protection of an invention in the face of a statutory bar such as the on-sale bar or the publication bar: filing a patent application or filing a provisional patent application.
For those who are interested in also obtaining protection in countries other than the U.S. it is important to bear in mind that the patent application should be filed prior to any public divulgation of the invention.