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What is a provisional patent application?

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2024 | Patents

A provisional patent application offers a cost-effective way to begin the patent process. It’s an interim measure that can be particularly beneficial for inventors at the early stages of their innovation. 

It is critical to understand the provisional patent application and its role in the process. 

What is a provisional patent application? 

A provisional patent application is a legal document filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It establishes an early filing date but doesn’t mature into an issued patent unless the applicant files a regular non-provisional patent application within one year. It’s less formal, requires fewer details and is generally less expensive than a non-provisional patent application.

Benefits of filing a provisional patent application 

Filing a provisional application has several advantages. One of the most important is that it secures your invention’s filing date, which is vital in the “first to file” patent system of the United States. If someone files a patent for a similar invention after your provisional filing, your earlier filing date could give you priority.  

Additionally, it gives you a 12-month period to refine your invention, assess its market potential and seek funding or partners. During this time, you can use the term “patent pending,” which can be advantageous for marketing and deterring potential infringers. 

The path from provisional to non-provisional patent 

Transitioning from a provisional to a non-provisional patent application is essential to protect your invention. This must be done within one year of the provisional application filing date. The non-provisional application is more complex, requiring a detailed description, formal claims defining the scope of the invention, drawings if necessary and the payment of higher filing fees.

The non-provisional application is examined by the USPTO and can eventually lead to a granted patent. Working with someone familiar with this complex undertaking may demystify it somewhat.