So we're working on a niche social network. A lot of the features are general features used in all social networks, but we have a few unique features. We don't have the resources to file actual patents, so we're just going with a provisional. Should I file individual provisionals for each feature, or can I just file one overall provisional for the whole app and make sure to highlight the individual features I think are patentable in the future?
A provisional patent is good for two things. It is a date-stamped proof of invention and gives you time to determine whether to incur the cost of filing a full patent. Yes, so long as the individual component pieces you think are useful are sufficiently described in detail within the one general application, it sets you up to later claim utility patents for any and all of these, providing they really are unique.
But in general, I would really caution you from spending time and money to file patents for a software company. I've built many innovative software products over 20 years of work in our industry and only filed one patent in my life, and even that patent is only to protect people from abusing a truly transformative and world-changing technology.
That said, a provisional patent is inexpensive and if any expense is going to be incurred here, a catch-all is sufficient if you feel inclined to file anything at all. If your goal is an acquihire or acquisition, utility patents do actually make a difference in the acquirers valuation (at least for now) but if you're thinking about it from an actual defensive perspective, I'd really advise that it's not worth your time (and distraction) and money.
The best defence is a great offence. Scale up, get great engagement from users who love your product and you'll be in a much stronger to fight competitors.
Lastly, if you do decide to file a provisional patent, don't claim to anyone that you have I.P. You don't. :)
Happy to talk through this in a call with you. Best of luck!