A provisional patent application is an initial step in the patent application process. It allows inventors to establish an early priority date and secure “patent pending” status for their invention. If you are an inventor looking to secure your work, this article will guide you through the steps of writing a provisional patent application.

What Is a Provisional Patent 

A provisional patent application (PPA) offers a low-cost way to reserve protection of an invention idea for one year. 

A provisional patent application is filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to secure a filing date for an invention. 

Unlike a regular patent application, a provisional patent does not grant patent rights, but it provides the applicant with the ability to claim “patent pending” status for the invention. 

To maintain the provisional patent claim beyond the initial 12 months, inventors need to submit a nonprovisional patent application.

Why Write a Provisional Patent

Writing a provisional patent can be an important step for inventors and entrepreneurs looking to protect their inventions. It allows them to establish an early filing date, which can be beneficial in case someone else tries to claim the same invention later on. 

Additionally, the provisional patent provides a time window of up to one year to further develop the invention, conduct market research, and seek potential investors or licensing opportunities.

In short, the provisional patent is a way for inventors to secure their position as “first to file” by submitting a simplified application. This gives them time to determine the reception of their idea, and to develop it further.

However, it’s important to understand that a provisional patent application does have its limitations. It does not grant actual patent rights, and it does not undergo a substantive examination by the USPTO. 

How to Write a Provisional Patent

Unlike a non-provisional patent, a provisional patent application doesn’t require a claim – a specific and detailed explanation about the innovation you want to protect. This makes the PPA much easier to draft, plus it does not alert competitors to the exact invention you’re working on. 

With the application, you need to include:

  • The name(s) of all inventors;
  • Inventor residence(s);
  • Title of the invention;
  • Name and registration number of attorney or agent and docket number (if applicable);
  • Correspondence address; and
  • Any U.S. Government agency that has a property interest in the application.
  • Drawings of the invention 
  • Application Cover Sheet

When writing the description for your provisional patent application, it is crucial to be clear, detailed, and precise. 

Provide a clear and concise explanation of how your invention works. Include its purpose, features, and functionality. The description should enable someone skilled in the field to fully understand your invention and its potential applications.

Should Your PPA Include Drawings?

Although an inventor can receive filing data even without submitting any drawings of their invention, it’s advisable to still add detailed drawings, diagrams, or sketches that clearly illustrate the invention from multiple angles. 

The reason is that the USPTO does not allow drawing necessary to understand the invention to be introduced into an application after the filing date and they are treated as “new matter”. 

Including drawings, photos, images, or any other visuals in your provisional patent application can significantly enhance its clarity and understanding.

Critical Deadlines for Provisional Patent Application 

You must file your patent application within one year of the first offer to sell your invention, or within one year of your first public use or disclosure of your invention. 

This means that you must determine the first offer to sell date, or the first public disclosure date. If it is more than one year from that date, it will be too late for you to file a patent application.

It is important to keep in mind that a provisional patent application is not the final step in obtaining a patent. To fully protect your invention, you must convert your provisional application into a non-provisional application within one year of filing the PPA.

This 12-month period is non-extendable; failing to file the non-provisional patent within this specific timeframe results in the loss of patent protection for your invention.

If you plan to seek patent protection beyond your home country, you need to file a corresponding patent application in foreign countries. The foreign filing deadline is typically 12 months from the filing date of your provisional patent application. It is important to note that the foreign filing deadline may vary depending on the country, though, so inventors should check with the local patent offices. 

Design or Utility Patent Protection? 

Before beginning the process of applying for a provisional patent, it’s essential to determine whether your invention is eligible for design or utility patent protection. 

Design patents are granted for the ornamental design of a functional item, while utility patents are issued for new and useful processes, machines, manufactured items, or compositions of matter.

Understanding which type of patent protection is suitable for your invention is crucial, as the requirements and guidelines for each type differ. For example, there is no need to file a PPA if you want to apply for a design patent. Taking the time to research and comprehend the distinctions will help ensure that you apply for the correct type of patent.

How Much Does a Provisional Patent Cost

When considering the cost of filing a provisional patent application, it is essential to factor in various expenses, including government fees and professional fees.

The government fees for filing a provisional patent application vary based on entity size: micro ($60), small ($120), and large ($300). 

In addition to government fees, you may also want to consider seeking professional help from a patent attorney or agent. While it is not mandatory to hire an attorney to file a provisional patent application, their expertise can be invaluable in ensuring that your application is prepared correctly and effectively protects your invention. 

It is worth noting that the cost of a provisional patent application is generally lower than that of a nonprovisional patent application. However, it is important to keep in mind that a provisional application is just the first step, and you will still need to prepare a utility patent application. 

Conduct a Patent Search

Before diving into the application process, it’s wise to conduct a patent search to ensure that your invention is unique and does not infringe on any existing patents. This step helps you confirm the novelty and non-obviousness of your invention. 

Analyzing existing patents will not only protect you from potential lawsuits but also provide valuable insight into the possible pitfalls and challenges you may encounter during the patent application process.

Various databases, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s patent search website, Google Patents, or automated tools for patent search can be used for this purpose.

Need to File a Provisional Patent Application?

The effort of patent research and drafting patent documents can sometimes be overwhelming, but there are ways to significantly streamline these processes. 

AI-automated tools, such as IP Author, can significantly shorten time-to-value and do the heavy lifting work on behalf of the inventor. 

IP Author dramatically decreases the drafting time for patent applications through the use of AI, automating and refining the drafting workflow. It can assist with speed, efficiency, and confidentiality for in-depth patent research. The custom-trained generative AI capabilities can enable inventors to file PPAs quickly and successfully. 

Ready to file your provisional patent application? See how IP Author can help!

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