There is no such thing as a provisional patent

By Gene Quinn
October 21, 2017

provisional patentWhenever I speak with inventors I am inevitably asked about the benefit of filing a provisional patent application.  I am a fan of provisional applications and do encourage independent inventors and small businesses to start with a provisional patent application. There is no downside to a provisional patent application, only benefits, provided the application filed actually (and adequately) describes the invention. Notwithstanding, it is critically important to understand what a provisional patent application is, and perhaps most importantly what a provisional patent application is not. And first things first — there is no such thing as a provisional patent. Let me explain.

Although there is a popular misconception among inventors new to the field of inventing, the United States Patent and Trademark Office is never going to grant a provisional patent. A “provisional”, as it is sometimes called, is a type of patent application. A provisional application for a patent can be filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in order to establish priority of invention, which is critically important given that the United States is now a first to file country. Although the U.S. is not a pure first to file country it is safest for inventors to assume that first to file laws do set up a race to the Patent Office. Therefore, it is essentially in virtually all cases for an inventor to file a patent application first — before anyone else who may also be working on the same invention. This is where a provisional application for a patent can be extremely useful.

A provisional application allows for filing without a formal patent claim, without an oath or declaration, and without any information disclosure (prior art) statement. The beauty of the provisional application is that it locks in your application date and provides the filer with patent pending status for hundreds of dollars less than that filing fee associated with a non-provisional patent application. Once filed the provisional application will remain pending for 12 months before it becomes abandoned. That 12 month period gives the inventor time to decide whether it makes sense to move forward with the expense of filing a non-provisional application.

It is also essential to know that the benefit a provisional provides is only with respect to that which is actually described in the application. A carelessly prepared provisional is a complete waste of time and money! Yes, you can legally say you have a patent pending even with a careless or incomplete provisional patent application, but no benefit will be achieved if and when you ultimately file a non-provisional patent application. Therefore, it is always wise to take proper care to make sure the all aspects of the invention are described in the provisional application. See Completely Describing an Invention.

It is also important to realize that a provisional patent application will never mature into an issued patent, nor does a provisional application protect your invention from copying by others. Thus, it is incorrect to think of a provisional application as creating some type of provisional rights.  There is no such thing as a provisional patent.  You can file a provisional application as a low cost first step toward achieving a patent, but the Patent Office will never issue a “provisional patent.”  You will always need to file a non-provisional patent application in order to obtain an issued patent. If your provisional application discloses your invention completely and clearly the filing date of your subsequent non-provisional patent application will be considered to be the filing date of the original provisional application. If you file a sparse, incomplete or unclear provisional application the filing date of a subsequent non-provisional patent application will NOT relate back to your provisional filing date. Therefore, it is frequently said that a provisional patent is good so long as it discloses the invention with the same detail and specificity that is required of a non-provisional patent application.

For more information about provisional patent applications, their benefits and limitations see:

If you need assistance I’ve developed an innovative approach that allows inventors to create and file their own provisional applications.  The Invent + Patent System™ enables the inventor to drive the application process and stay engaged throughout the process. By answering a series of specific, legally derived questions, the inventor provides extremely detailed information.  The Invent + Patent System™ contains both questions and detailed explanation regarding the type of information the question is intending to collect, provides suggested answer templates that you can use to form your answers, and also includes specific examples answers for a variety of technologies taken from issued patents.  The Invent + Patent System™ guides you through the creation of the application to ensure that you provide all of the information required by US patent laws for a complete provisional application.  The cost to use the system is $99, and typically the fees due to the United States Patent & Trademark Office are $130, assuming the inventor is a small entity. Only $65 if the inventor qualifies as a micro-entity.

 

For more basic information on patents and invention please see:

Good luck inventing!

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and founder of IPWatchdog.com. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and an attorney with Widerman Malek. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

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  1. Amnon M Cohen October 22, 2017 6:36 am

    My PrePatent (PrePartnering) proposal that was not understood by the USA PTO, but the original lowering of the fees related to my proposal, was — but this was long time ago; so I am still the only one I know, who was/is First to Invent, First to File, and also First Not to Publish — so I am still free to employ the solution and reserve my patenting rights until I am ready to do so with my commercial partner, and prior to entering the market, which will grant me the economic powers that only major global corporations have. (This, as long as my invention is still ahead of existing registered patented arts, which it is since 1974 and even since 1991 when my original application was registered.
    The PrePatent PrePartnering Registry proposal, itself, is an advanced innovation for the IP system, but it works well, as if I did publish my original said patent, it would have expired by now, and used by all who want to use it.
    So, while the Provisional Patent the USAPTO has devised is good to let an inventor have an extra year to get the needed partners, do more work on the project, advance progress, get the better patent-application ready, for a moderate fee — the actual commercial value for the inventor is minimal, as she/he/they are committed to the full process of application still before there is a partner, buyer, investor or even a market to enter.
    A small inventor is not wise to do so, as the USA Patent System serves you better if you are already major power in the markets of the industry which needs your safe and beneficial new or innovated product, service, method or capability.

    Yes, I know, that the yet far reaching Global Taxation Treaty in my proposal ( http://prepatent.org ) is well beyond everyone in Government and the IP industry, but the starting point of the Pre-Patent Registry and its Trading Post, is still the best innovation for this archaic and slow to change/improve/ develop industry.

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