Provisional Patent Application
A provisional patent application is essentially a placeholder for your invention at the Patent Office. A provisional patent application provides, with certainty, a 'first-to-file' filing date for the disclosed subject matter. A provisional patent application is 'provisional' because it is not examined by the Patent Office, cannot issue as a patent, and expires automatically after one year. A provisional patent application is simpler with fewer requirements than a non-provisional patent application because it is not examined. In order to take advantage of the provisional patent application’s filing date, a non-provisional patent application must be filed within one year of the filing date of the provisional patent application. Patent Applicants should note, however, that a provisional application that does not meet the basic legal standards for an invention diclosure as defined by federal court decisions will not serve as a proper filing date for a later filed utility application. It is therefore essential that a provisional application be prepared by a patent attorney to ensure that it is prepared correctly and provides a reliable filing date.
A provisional patent application can be advantageously used by an inventor to buy time to develop prototypes, obtain funding, and perform other development or marketing work related to the invention. A provisional patent application provides 'patent pending' status for one year and the inventor is thus free to pursue further development, funding, manufacturing interest, or marketing activities without jeopardizing their patent rights. If after a year, the inventor decides for whatever reason to drop the project, this can then be done before the time and expense of preparing and filing a non-provisional patent application has been incurred.
On the other hand, if an inventor is certain that they would like to obtain patent protection for their invention, filing a provisional patent application may only add to the overall time and expense of obtaining a patent. In this case, an inventor may proceed directly to filing a non-provisional patent application.