You have a new, innovative idea that just came to you and you are excited to share it with the world. You don’t have all the details laid out yet, but you still want to ensure that your idea is protected from its fruition. If you’re in these early stages of the development process, then filing a provisional patent application provides many benefits and may prove to be the right next step for you. Conversely, if you are in the final stages of development, it may be best to jump straight to your nonprovisional patent application. You can find more about filing your nonprovisional patent applications in this blog covering the topic fully! Not sure about the difference between provisional and nonprovisional patent applications, check out our blog here.
Below, we discuss what a provisional patent application is, how to file one, why it’s important, and how to decide whether filing one is right for you.
What Is a Provisional Patent?
Contrary to what many people believe, filing a provisional patent application does not mean that you have a “provisional patent.” There is no such thing. Instead, a provisional patent application is essentially the initial filing that you must do in order to secure a filing date with the patent office, at which time you will disclose your idea in its entirety.
Key things to remember when it comes to a provisional patent application:
- It does not get examined or made public.
- It expires after one year, at which time you have to either secure a patent or abandon the idea.
- It does not have a claim requirement, which are critical defining elements of a patent idea.
- The cost is about $150 if you are a small entity and $300 if you are a large entity. It is important to note that there are also various standards that are used to determine whether you’re a small or large entity. You may also qualify for micro entity status. To find out more about micro entity status and how you might qualify check out our YouTube video here.
How Do I File a Provisional Patent Application?
The good news is that this process can be done online in a short period of time. It is not meant to be an extensive and detailed application. Instead, it typically describes the structure, function, and relationships of the idea through a written specification, examples, drawings, and as a preference at Dana Legal Services, at least one claim.
To help make this process even easier for you, we have included step-by-step instructions on how to fill out this application on your own. To file a provisional patent application, follow the steps listed below.
- You will want to start by going to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website at uspto.gov.
- Navigate to the right toolbar and go to “Patent Center.”
- Hit “New Submission,” followed by the “Utility Provisional” option.
- It will prompt you to sign in. If you do not have an account yet, you can make one.
- You will then need to upload the application data sheet. You can either prepare this file in advance by downloading it from the website beforehand, do it online in real time, or proceed without one.
- It will bring you to a page where you will need to add all of the invention details, such as:
- The number of inventors you have
- The names and contact details of each inventor
- The title of the invention
- Attorney docket number, if applicable
- The total number of sheets of drawing
- The total number of figures
- You’re going to leave many of the boxes blank and move on because much of the information is not relevant to a provisional patent application. For instance, leave the representative details and foreign filing details blank because you are just an individual filing on your own, claiming domestic benefit. If you have any questions, make sure to ask your patent attorney.
- Once you complete the application details, it will show you an overview of all the information you input. Look at everything carefully and double-check that it is all correct.
- If all the information is accurate, you will be prompted to electronically sign the document in the blank spaces with stars next to them.
- Once you electronically sign, you will be directed to the Financial Center page where you can enter your credit card information to pay the fees.
That, in a nutshell, is how you go about filing a provisional patent application. Keep in mind that, while we attempt to break down this process as simply as possible, it can and often is a more complex process. In one of our latest YouTube videos, attorney and patent guru Jubin Dana takes viewers through each step of filling a provisional patent application.
If you watch the video, you will see that there are several potential errors and difficulties that can arise during the online application process. It is not uncommon to get error notifications and have to review your filing information for accuracy. With that said, if you would like assistance filing your provisional patent application or have any questions along the way, don’t hesitate to contact our team for timely assistance.
Is Filing a Provisional Patent Application Important?
Filing a provisional patent is an important and useful tool for inventors because it essentially provides the benefit of a priority filing date without starting the patent clock. If you’re unsure what we mean by this, let’s take a step back.
On June 8, 1995, the patent length term changed from 17 years from the patent issuance to 20 years from the earliest filing date of the non-provisional patent application. However, this change essentially meant that inventors outside of the U.S. could have filed patent applications in the countries where they lived, thus locking in a priority date, while U.S. inventors took the time to file foreign patent applications.
To prevent foreign inventors from having more rights than those within the United States, the 1995 patent amendment simultaneously created a provisional patent application that locks in a priority filing date, which is recognized by most countries in the world. It can be filed by anyone in the U.S. and does not require a formal patent claim, declaration, or oath.
With that said, not everyone needs to or should file a provisional patent application. While every situation is unique and there is no surefire answer, here are some reasons that may help you decide whether doing so is right for you:
Reasons to Consider Filing a Provisional Patent Application
Because there are less formal requirements in regards to format and details, the cost of filing a provisional patent application are significantly lower than filing a non-provisional patent application. You are often able to file the application on your own or have the materials reviewed and submitted by a patent attorney with little revisions while obtaining an efficient, short-term solution in the early stages of your invention.
Additionally, you’re able to secure foreign priority with a provisional patent application since the U.S. is now a “first-to-file” country, meaning that inventors within the United States get a priority date for filing their patent applications.
Another major advantage to filing a provisional patent application is the fact that you can put “patent pending” on marketing and packaging materials when you make your invention public in order to warn potential infringers that you have a priority filing date already set. As an inventor, you can use this time period to promote the invention, raise money for its development, and bring on investors.
Reasons to Consider Not Filing a Provisional Patent Application
Filing a provisional patent application may not really be necessary if you are looking to cut costs. As we mentioned, you can expect to pay fees of $150-300, depending on whether you are a small or large entity, on top of a separate $75 application fee. Additionally, you should not expect to get the protection of a patent by filing this application.
We say this because provisional patent applications can give many inventors a false sense of protection. They believe that, because filing a provisional patent application is often quick and easy, that they have a quick and easy way to legal protection for their intellectual property. However, please remember that this is not a patent issuance, but rather a 12-month timeline from your priority filing date. When the 12 months is up, you will have to either abandon the idea or file an actual patent application.
Why Do I Need to Hire a Patent Attorney?
With that said, we understand that this area of law can be complex and confusing, especially when it comes to the laws, regulations, and formalities that make up the patent process. At Dana Legal Services, we do this for a living and understand how to ensure that your invention has the maximum legal backing to protect from infringers.
When it comes to your innovative idea, one that you have high hopes for, you don’t want to take any chances. If you need help filing a provisional patent application, don’t hesitate to contact our team for a free consultation. Likewise, if you have already applied for your provisional patent application, now is the time to get in touch with a patent attorney at our firm for help preparing your non-provisional patent application before your filing priority date. Dana Legal Services is here to help, do reach out to us at email@example.com, or alternatively, drop your question on our website at www.danalegalservices.com/contact/.
If you are interested in learning more check out our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/ThePatentGuru.