Patent FAQ

1. What is a Provisional Patent Application?

A provisional application for patent (provisional application) is a U.S. national application filed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A provisional application provides the means to establish an early effective filing date in a later filed nonprovisional patent application. It also allows the term "Patent Pending" to be applied with the description of the invention.

2. How long does a Provisional Application last?

A provisional application for patent has a pendency lasting 12 months from the date the provisional application is filed. The 12-month pendency period cannot be extended. This 1-year window allows an inventor to determine if there is interest in the invention and if it is commercially viable before spending the large costs for a nonprovisional application.

An applicant who files a provisional application must file a corresponding nonprovisional application for patent during the 12-month pendency period of the provisional application in order to benefit from the earlier filing of the provisional application.

3. Why file a Provisional Patent Application?

(A) Filing a provisional application secures your filing date with the U.S. Patent Office. You can then freely discuss your invention to others and to companies;

(B) If you wish to sell your invention, companies typically require that you have a "patent pending" or an actual patent. A patent and a patent application are legal assets that can be bought or licensed. Companies, in general, do not buy ideas.

4. What do I need for a Provisional Patent Application?

(A) Identify the name and address of the inventor, or all inventors if more than one;

(B) A title for the invention and a written description of the invention. This includes a description of how the invention is made and how it works. Drawings or pictures of parts are helpful if the invention is mechanical. For software inventions, a flow chart of steps showing how the software operates is helpful.

Patent FAQ