What is a provisional patent application?

The fastest way to protect your invention is to file a provisional patent application. Read about the benefits and limitations.

A provisional patent application is a lower-cost first patent filing option for U.S. patent applicants designed to provide parity with foreign applicants. In many other countries, the patent application process is notably less time-consuming, so complying with U.S. patent law could put companies at a disadvantage.

A provisional patent application is easier and faster to file because it is not required to include a formal patent claim or an oath or declaration. These shorter applications also don't have any information disclosure statement allowing applicants to complete the process sooner and establish an earlier effective filing date.

Limitations of a provisional patent application.

A provisional patent application allows the applicant to apply the term "Patent Pending" to an invention for 12 months from when they file. This 12-month time frame can't be extended, so the inventor must either convert the provisional application or file a nonprovisional patent application during that period to benefit from the provisional application's earlier filing.

Suppose an inventor chooses to convert the provisional application to a nonprovisional one instead of filing a new nonprovisional application. In that case, the patent term begins at the original filing date. This effectively shortens the patent term by up to 12 months compared to filing a new application at the end of the provisional period.

How to file a provisional patent application.

A provisional patent application must include a written description of the invention. The U.S. Patent Office advises applicants to file any drawings necessary to understand the invention with the application. A drawing required to understand the invention cannot be added to the application after the filing date because there is a prohibition against introducing new data, information, or other matter.

Here is a list of some of the information that should be included with the application:

  1. The provisional application form.
  2. The names of all inventors.
  3. Contact information for all inventors.
  4. A title for the invention.
  5. Contact information for a patent attorney, if there is one.
  6. An address for all correspondence from the government about the application.

It is important to remember that the patent office does not examine the merits of provisional applications. Applying the term "Patent Pending" should not be used to imply that the government has approved the quality or worth of the invention.

A nonprovisional application resulting from a provisional one must have at least one inventor listed in the provisional application to claim the benefit of the provisional application filing date. This requirement protects the applicants from having an unrelated inventor make a competing claim.

Fillable PDFs make completing and signing applications easy.

Many of the forms used for filing a patent application are fillable PDFs. To ensure your application forms are properly signed and dated, use an e-signature tool to sign PDF documents with confidence from any browser.

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