The first patent application for an invention establishes the priority. If you apply to patent the same invention in other countries within 12 months, these form a patent family. Until the patents are granted, the invention is only protected provisionally.
Here is a more precise definition of the terms priority, patent families and provisional protection:
The priority period starts with the application to patent your invention in Switzerland or in another member state of the Paris Convention or the World Trade Organization (WTO). You have only 12 months to apply to patent the same invention in other countries. However, you can claim the priority date of the first application for these subsequent applications. This means that for these additional applications, this priority date will be respected in evaluating the novelty of the invention.
The technical documents of the first patent application are the priority documents. A group of patent documents relating to the same priority documents are known as a patent family. As there can be different changes to the original text in the various national patent grant procedures, the claimed scope of protection of the individual patent family members are not always the same. However, it is in principle the same invention.
From the date of the application, your invention is protected provisionally – provided that the patent is later granted. Under certain circumstances, the patent claims and therefore the scope of protection must be adapted or restricted. Only after the patent has been granted do you receive full and enforceable legal protection, which is valid retroactively from the priority date.
Roundtable on the protection of computer-implemented inventions