QUESTION: Is it safe to contact a manufacturer with just a provisional patent?
I have a provisional patent instead of a non-provisional patent in case I want to make small changes to the invention. However, I want to contact a manufacturer in the US to create my invention but I do not know if it is "safe" to do so. Would it be safe to contact US manufacturers with just a provisional patent or would an NDA be required? Or, should I wait until I file a non-provisional utility patent?
ANSWER: It would probably be better to contact a manufacturer after you filed a provisional patent application and after the manufacturer signs an NDA.
A provisional patent application gives you a filing date in the US. A non-provisional patent application also does the same. This is important because a patent for the same invention is awarded to the person who first files a patent application.
Therefore, if you file a patent application (provisional or non-provisional), then disclose the invention to a third person (e.g., manufacturer), and then the third person files a patent application on your invention, you would be the first to file.
However, a provisional patent application does not give you the right to sue someone for copying your invention (i.e., patent infringement). So even if you are the first to file a patent application, the provisional patent application would not enable you to stop the other person from stealing your idea and copying your invention.
A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a contract that allows the inventor to disclose the invention to another person under confidentiality. The other person agrees not to disclose or use the confidential information about the invention. If the other person does use the confidential information, the inventor can sue for breach of contract and stop the use of the confidential information.