A patent application filing date is very important for several reasons. First, if this is your first patent application for your invention, it will serve as your priority date. When a patent examiner examines the patentability of your invention, the patent examiner will decide whether a reference should be considered prior art based on your priority date. With constantly evolving technologies, such as software, mobile apps, or mobile devices, an earlier priority date can mean less prior art, and higher chances of getting approved for a patent.
Priority dates also dictate when patent applications will be published. Generally, utility applications are published 18 months from the earliest priority date. Provisional and design patent applications do not get published. Priority dates further set certain deadlines or events involved in obtaining international patent protection. For instance, the date when the search report is done and when to enter national stage or get a patent application examined by a country’s office patent office is generally based on the priority date.
Perhaps, one of the most important reasons why you should be concerned about a patent filing date is when you have a bar date. Say for instance you offered your invention for sale or you publicly disclosed your invention at a trade show, that event sets your 1 year clock to file a patent application. If you don’t file your application before that clock expires, your invention will be barred from becoming a patent. If you filed a patent application on the 1 year anniversary of the barring disclosure and the US Patent and Trademark Office rightfully refuses to grant you a filing date, your invention may never be patented no matter how hard you worked in trying to make the deadline.
There are several situations when the USPTO will refuse to grant a serial number and a filing date. For instance, if your provisional or utility application fails to meet the requirements of 35 USC § 112, you will not get a filing date. 35 USC § 112 requires that your disclosure, which is usually through your specification and drawings, enables a person skilled in the art to make and use your invention without undue experimentation. Other situations that may cause you not to receive a filing date includes failing to include a filing fee or failing to include at least one claim for a utility application. For a provisional application, a filing date may not be given if your filing does not include the required cover sheet.