Provisional Specification

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A particularly British phenomenon

We have also not entirely clarified the relation between the British "complete" and "provisional" specifications, particularly as these pertain to quantification. Of course there are a huge number of British patents which only involve a Complete Specification. That is, they have no "provisional" specifications. Among those which do involve provisional specifications, we have noticed three patterns.

Cases in which the number of the first Provisional Specification number is also that of the Complete Specification

Sharp cases of a Provisional Specification, of a certain number, being followed by one or more Provisional Specifications, of different numbers, all embedded within the same document and all contributing to one complete specification which uses the initial number:

Cases in which the number of the first Provisional Specification number is not that designating the Complete Specification

Some these patents involve only one Provisional Specification. Others involve more than one.

This may get into the internationally variable semantics of administrative culture, whether improvements upon an initial conception are treated as relative afterthoughts, as in the case of France, in particular, as opposed to the emphasis being put upon the "Complete", the final, as in the case of Great Britain, in particular. These numbers are not the same as American serial numbers.

On occasion, non-British patents refer to British filing dates, in the manner of a priority date. We often have or quickly find the British patent in question, and have its number. Indeed, some British patents are put out as Complete Specifications which involve no Provisional Specifications, and others do include Provisional Specifications, but with no variation in the designating numbers. Rarely, we find reference to a filing date, and possibly a patent number, which may not be type-searchable, on Espacenet, for instance, because there is variation between the designating numbers within the one British document, not necessarily in accordance with any “serial” process we have observed. Whether a non-British patent makes reference or not, we may make these numbers type-searchable, within our own data.

Cases in which one number is used throughout the Provisional Specification and Complete Specification processes

  • Patent GB-1911-4506 only uses that one patent number, in the usual manner of its application year, prominently displayed, serving to differentiate it in the event that the mere four-digit number had been used previously or was to be used later. This patent is a simple case. It only goes through one provisional stage. That is likely why only the one number is used. In the case of British patent material, documents give us less of a "real-time" glimpse. The documents seem to have been printed fairly well along into the administrative process, with hindsight being reflected in the documents.
  • Patent GB-1917-126674 is a similar example.
  • Patent GB-1909-16707 is a case in which page one of the original document is stamped "SUPERCEDED BY AMENDED SPECIFICATION". However, the specification(s) doing the superceding are contained within the same document. Both the Provisional Specification and the Complete Specification are in effect doubled, as are the numbers of text and diagram pages and so forth. The stamp "SUPERCEDED BY AMENDED SPECIFICATION" may have been standardized around cases in which only one Complete Specification retains the ultimate value. The number 16707 is used throughout the original patent document.

This principle in contrast to the French Certificat d'addition

In the case of Great Britain, we do have those relatively few cases in which one specific and separate patent is specifically called an addition to another, in a way at least roughly analogous to the French Certificat d'addition, though, again, the French seem to be unique in treating these, at least semantically, as a document type distinct from that of the brevet.

These are all matters of administrative culture, the international variability therein.