How long after I fill out a non provisional patent application, will my product be safe to market?
Never, but don't be afraid.By "safe" I assume that you mean a combination of your ability to make the product free of claims of infringement, your ability to exclude other from using it and your ability to prevent others from patenting the same thing. I also assume that you are filing in the United States. If not, this answer may not fit.Don't worry about copyists.It is true that people are free to make copies of your product today, tomorrow and every day in the future until the patent issues. I think a supermajority of my clients worry that as soon as their idea escapes their lips everyone will start copying it. Yet, that virtually never happens. Why?If you sell your product widely (assuming it's unique and people want it) then you will sell at the highest price the market is willing to pay at the quantity which corresponds to the best per unit profit. If someone else wants to come into the market the quantity will increase and the price will fall (that is the law of demand). The second mover will have to consider whether it is profitable to sell at this new lower price, not whether it is profitable to sell at your monopolist price. If this new price is below its cost curve, the second mover will not enter the marketplace. Until an economy of scale is reached, no one will want to enter the marketplace."But what about really big companies," most clients who have never worked for a big company ask, "can't they make my product for much less than me?" Yes, but they won't. Here, the problem isn't variable cost, but rather that new products are only viable if they are able to cover their share of the massive overhead large companies have. If the contribution margin is less than 40% (it probably is) they will pass. Inventors often confuse copying with independent inventorship. The former requires a transmission of your invention to the copyist, which the copyist then copies. This is like a copy machine. Independent inventorship occurs when two people are trying to solve the same problem at the same time. It is still rare that this occurs, but it does happen. In my last thousand cases I have seen one instance of copying and maybe half a dozen cases of independent inventorship. This is not something to worry about.You can't do anything about infringementA patent is a right to exclude, not a right to make and use your invention. If a portion of your device is covered by another patent, you may be infringing that patent even though you have a patent on your own device.Let's say you have a patent on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and that you are going to a patent infringement picnic. You see the following:A peanut butter sandwich - no jelly no infringement.A peanut butter, jelly and ice cream sandwich - you find this impressive, and you speak to the assignee to learn that it has patent on this sandwich. Nonetheless, it still infringes because there is peanut butter, jelly and sandwich.Filing and publishing your application with thwart a subsequent or simultaneous inventorA patent requires novelty and non-obvious over that which currently exists. Novelty means that you cannot patent something that is available to the public. Non-obvious prevents you from patenting something that is not available to the public but the public could figure out how to make your product given what is available and the skill in your field.Publishing your application creates a searchable prior art reference for a patent examiner to easily reject a later filed application. Of course, the sales I advised you to make above could do the same thing, but the patent examiner may not have access to those and you might have a situation where the subsequent filer gets a patent that is not enforceable.Publication carries risk as well (most notably making life easier for copyists). To figure out the best system to handle these risks requires a much more detailed assessment of your business. If you PM me I can try to help you.