The Patent Office grants the patent to the first inventor, even if he filed later than another inventor, provided that the first inventor was diligent in reducing his invention to practice and getting his application filed in a reasonable amount of time. If more than one person contributes an inventive aspect that is claimed in a patent, each must be named as a joint inventor in the application.
The U.S. also allows a one-year grace period for filing a patent application even after an invention has been publicly disclosed. But unless properly related to an earlier filed application, a US patent application cannot be legally filed if the invention had been publicly disclosed for one year or more. Also, if foreign applications are going to be filed, it is necessary to get a patent application filed before any public disclosure is made. There are good patenting agencies, such as Invent Help, to help you in the process.
A provisional patent application can be a wise strategy for preserving patent rights while delaying the costs of filing a formal patent application. Such a formal application, filed with one year of the provisional application, can use the filing date of the provisional application, provided that the matter claimed in the formal is properly supported by the disclosure in the provisional.
Provisional applications do not yield a patent or receive a search by the Patent Office, but are becoming a very popular initial step for individual inventors or small companies concerned about the costs of formal filing, and wanting to take more time to test the marketability of a new invention. There are patenting agencies that are providing help for new inventors you can consult.
Larger companies are finding that provisional filings allow temporary protection for a larger number of products while marketing opportunities are explored. During the pendency of the provisional application, the invention may be publicly disclosed and sold without damaging the right to file the formal or even foreign applications.
Only during the time that a provisional or formal application has been filed and the patent actually issues, can the invention be legally marked or described as ‘Patent Pending’.