Provisional Patent Applications FAQ

What is a Provisional Application?

Provisional Patent Application (or also referred to as a Provisional Application for 
Patent) is considered a stepping stone patent application filed in the US Patent and 
Trademark Office whose main purpose is to establish priority for the owner of the 
invention. 
 
Some of the characteristics of a provisional patent application is that unlike a regular or 
non-provisional patent applications, a provisional patent application (1) does not get 
assigned and examined by a patent examiner,  (2) automatically expires or becomes 
abandoned after 1 year from the date of filing, and (3) cannot claim priority or benefit 
from any other application. 

What do I need to include in a Provisional Application?

Although there are no formal requirements for a provisional patent application, under the 
current rules provisional patent applications must be written correctly for effective 
protection. 
 
If you file a regular or non-provisional patent application within one year of filing the 
provisional application and make a claim of priority to the earlier filed provisional patent 
application, you’ll get the benefit of priority to the filing date of the provisional patent 
application.  But in order to enjoy the benefit of priority to the earlier filed provisional 
patent application, the provisional patent application must contain enough information to 
“carry-over” to the non-provisional patent application or else you may lose the benefit of 
priority to the filing date of the provisional patent application. 

Is there a form for a provisional patent application?

Although some legal site such as Legalzoom™ or some patent submission companies 
may have proprietary “provisional application form”, you should be aware that there 
technically is no such thing as a standard provisional application form since similar to a 
regular or non-provisional patent application, a provisional application needs to be 
written up from scratch.

What forms do I need to file with my Provisional Application?

For filing a paper copy to the US Patent and Trademark Office you’ll only need a Provisional Cover Sheet and a Fee Transmittal form.
For electronic filing through the US Patent and Trademark Office EFS-Web system you
will need to file an Application Data Sheet.

Although not required we usually include a Provisional Cover Sheet with the electronic filing.

How do I turn my Provisional Application into a patent?

First off, a provisional patent application technically never becomes a patent as it
becomes abandoned or expires at the one-year anniversary of the filing date.
However it you file a regular or non-provisional patent application within one-year of the
filing date of the provisional patent application and make a claim of priority to the
provisional patent application then your non-provisional patent application will benefit
from the filing date of the provisional patent application

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Should I file a Provisional patent Application or a non-provisional patent application?
This is question that we get asked a lot and our response is that it’s a business decision
that you’ll have to make based on your circumstances.

Reasons to file a provisional application over a regular application

Some of the benefits of Provisional Applications are that they are much cheaper than
regular applications (usually costing about 1/3 as much) and faster to prepare than regular
applications which will allow you establish your priority at the patent office faster and at
a lower cost so that you can go out and discuss, build, market, sell your invention to
others and/or determine whether it’s worth the investment to file the full utility/regular
patent application. In short, similar to the regular application you’ll enjoy the “Patent
Pending” Status & Secure your invention with the filing of the Provisional Applications.

Reasons to file a regular application over a provisional application

Some of the benefits of proceeding with a regular application over filing a provisional
application are that if you know that you’re eventually going to file for a regular
application filing for a provisional application first results in just added cost and further
delays in the examining and hopefully in the issuance of your patent.