This article entitled “Preserving intellectual property before a patent is issued” provides an excellent overview of the patent protection available to neutraceutical companies. The authors, James F. Ewing, Ph.D. and Michel Morency, Ph.D. of Foley & Lardner, suggest that “investment in solid intellectual property protection for key product brands and technology in the global marketplace…is the cornerstone to corporate sustainability.”
Ewing and Morency instruct that the filing of provisional patent applications “serve to expand the timeframe in which a third party may be liable to a patentee for their infringing activity to include the period beginning on the date of publication of the application through to the date the patent is issued.”
In fact, a provisional application provides the inventor with an additional year to file a non-provisional application. Moreover, when the patent finally issues it will have the advantage of priority dating back to the date of filing the original provisional application.
Provisional applications require only one claim and can be filed very inexpensively. So, if you have an invention worthy of patent protection, but need to develop the idea further before filing a full non-provisional application, file a provisional.