The path to safeguarding your innovation starts with understanding provisional patents. A provisional patent application is like a placeholder, allowing inventors to secure their invention while buying time to refine it.

Before diving into the digital submission process, it’s crucial to grasp the benefits and the concept of a ‘priority date’—a timestamp that can make or break your patent journey. Equipped with that knowledge, the preparation phase can begin, involving thorough research to ensure your idea is indeed novel and patentable.

This article will guide you through the essential steps of submitting your first provisional patent application online, from preparing your documents to understanding what comes after the application is filed. 

Basics of Provisional Patent Application

Embarking on the patent process, inventors often opt for a provisional patent application as their initial step. This strategic move safeguards their invention with an early effective filing date at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). By initiating a filing, inventors can legally tout their creation as “Patent Pending,” which can serve as a critical deterrent to prevent potential infringers from copying the innovative work.

In contrast to its counterpart, the nonprovisional patent application, the provisional variant stands out for its cost efficiency and simplicity. It does away with the demands of a formal patent claim and an information disclosure statement, which significantly lightens the administrative load for independent inventors. 

With the provisional application in place, there is a valuable one-year grace period available to perfect the invention, explore market possibilities, and secure investments—all before taking the plunge into the more intricate and substantial non-provisional patent application.

To encapsulate, the provisional patent presents a less daunting yet protective entry point for inventors eager to secure their patent rights without the immediate full-scale commitment of the non-provisional process.

Benefits of Filing a Provisional Patent Application


  • Establishes an early filing date
  • Confers “Patent Pending” status
  • Is cost-effective compared to non-provisional patents
  • Simplifies the initial filing with fewer requirements
  • Grants a one-year period for further development

What is a Priority Date?

A Priority Date is a fundamental concept in the patent process, often constitutionally tied to a Provisional Patent Application. It marks the official date from which an inventor’s patent rights begin. This date becomes crucial when establishing the timeline for an invention’s disclosure and its protection against any similar patents filed later.

When an inventor files a Provisional Application, they are granted a Priority Date that aligns with this earlier filing date. Essentially, it becomes the recognized timestamp of the invention’s introduction into the patent system, serving as a placeholder for a subsequent Non-Provisional Patent Application.

However, it’s important to note that if a Provisional Patent Application is not converted to a Non-Provisional one within 12 months, it is considered abandoned, and the inventor loses the benefit of the Priority Date. Additionally, the protective scope of the Priority Date only extends to the content originally disclosed in the provisional application; it does not cover new subject matter added later in a non-provisional application.

Provisional Application FiledNon-Provisional Follow-up
Priority Date establishedMust be within 12 months of Provisional
Unconverted, application is abandonedPriority Date only benefits initial content

Preparation Steps (Prior Art Search)

Before diving into the online filing of a provisional patent application, it’s imperative to conduct a thorough prior art search. This search underpins the uniqueness and validity of your invention, ensuring it is indeed novel and non-obvious—a cornerstone of patent laws. Patent examiners conduct a meticulous review of existing patents and publications, analyzing prior inventions to assess the eligibility of your patent application.

Here’s why a rigorous prior art search is vital:

  1. Identification of Novelty: It determines whether your invention has already been disclosed in the public domain.
  2. Insights into Patent Landscape: It provides an understanding of the existing inventions and potential gaps your invention might fill.
  3. Safeguarding Innovation: It can identify potential legal infringements well in advance to avoid future litigation.

Anticipating potential patent process hurdles and understanding the scope of existing intellectual property can save inventors both time and resources. Moreover, when you file a provisional patent application, particularly in the United States, it establishes an early filing date that can be instrumental in claiming “Patent Pending” status. 

Including detailed descriptions of your invention in your provisional application bolsters your filing significantly. Remember, the level of detail can influence the effectiveness of securing that all-important filing date.

In this stage, IP Author, an AI patent drafting tool, can substantially assist in conducting a comprehensive prior art search. With its access to extensive databases and AI-driven analysis capabilities, IP Author simplifies identifying prior art, ensuring a solid foundation for your application. This tool not only accelerates the search process but also enhances its thoroughness, offering valuable insights that can refine your application and strategy.

Filing the Provisional Patent Application (Step by Step)

Securing your invention’s future begins with filing a provisional patent application online. Here’s a streamlined step-by-step guide:

  1. Preparation: Before you start, ensure you have a detailed description of your invention, along with any drawings or diagrams, if applicable. Though it’s less formal, provisional applications still require clear information to demonstrate the novelty of your idea.
  2. Visit the USPTO’s Patent Center: Navigate to the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Center online. This digital hub is where you’ll perform your application submission.
  3. Fill Out the Application Form: Complete the provided provisional application for patent form, which includes basic information about the invention and the inventor(s). Remember, a provisional patent does not require a formal patent claim.
  4. Cover Sheet and Correspondence Address: Attach a cover sheet identifying the invention and providing the correspondence address. This ensures all communication from the USPTO reaches you promptly.
  5. Pay the Filing Fee: Calculate and pay the required filing fee, which varies based on the size of the entity filing the application.

By following these steps, you can swiftly apply for a provisional patent, granting you patent pending status and protection under patent laws in the United States and potentially foreign countries while you prepare your non-provisional application. Remember, after 12 months, you need to file a non-provisional patent application to continue the patent process and secure your complete patent rights.

For more comprehensive guidance or legal advice, consulting with a patent attorney is advisable.

After Filing the Application

After filing a provisional patent application online through the Patent Center, inventors secure their place in line, gaining a filing date that grants them “Patent Pending” status. This status is crucial as it deters competitors from copying the idea and paves the way for the original patent filer to claim priority.

Once submitted, inventors have 12 months to convert the provisional application into a non-provisional patent application to extend the protection. However, it’s important to note that this extension could influence the patent’s ultimate expiration date.

Meanwhile, during this period, inventors may explore ways to monetize their innovation, like starting a company or seeking investors, empowered by their established filing date.

To enhance protection, when ready to file a non-provisional application, including at least one formal patent claim, along with detailed drawings and prior art references, is advisable. This strategic filing may strengthen the eventual patent rights.

Keep in mind, that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) advises submitting non-provisional applications through the online Patent Center to prevent incurring additional fees tied to paper filings.

Post-Application Filing Checklist:

  • Monitor the provisional patent status.
  • Consider monetization strategies.
  • Prepare for non-provisional application filing with claims and drawings.
  • Convert within 12 months to maintain priority date.

Remember that timely actions and strategic planning after filing can significantly impact your patent process and rights.

IP Author Can Help You With Your Provisional Patent Application

Navigating the patent process can be daunting, particularly when preserving the initial spark of your invention. IP Author understands this journey and stands ready to guide you through filing a provisional patent application online. 

Our AI-powered patent drafting platform specializes in navigating the intricate patent process, with a focus on three pivotal areas: patent claim drafting, prior art research, and office action responses. This comprehensive approach ensures inventors and IP professionals can secure and maintain the integrity of their innovations with precision and ease.

IP Author, powered by Dolcera, streamlines patent drafting by transforming inventive concepts into comprehensive patent documents, ensuring precision and compliance. Our platform conducts thorough prior art searches, leveraging an extensive database to strengthen your patent’s novelty and avoid infringement. For office action responses, IP Author simplifies the process, crafting clear and effective replies to increase the likelihood of your patent application’s approval.

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