Intellectual property attorney Robert Chiaviello of Baker & Botts LLP in Dallas has some sound advice for anyone filing a provisional application for a patent. "When discussing your idea with someone else, never tell them if the application you have on file is provisional rather than formal," he says. If they know it's provisional, according to Chiaviello, they know you'll probably wait a year before starting the formal patent process. A competitor can put your idea on the market and sell it with impunity during your "patent pending" phase. If they know your filing date, they know they have one to three years before your patent will be issued. You should keep all filing dates a secret to protect your idea from competitors who make a business out of bringing ideas to market before the rightful owner of the idea can get a patent issued.