What Is A Provisional Patent Application?
- A provisional patent application is a 12 month “placeholder” for your invention.
A provisional patent application is a legal document that can help you “win the race to the patent office.” However, a provisional patent application does NOT directly result in a patent. Instead, a provisional patent application is a legal document that can establish the priority date for your invention if and when you file a non-provisional patent application (i.e. a “real” patent application) within 12 months of filing the provisional patent application.
In other words, a provisional patent application is a legal document that is designed to prove that you invented your invention before someone else files a patent application, publishes something, or does something that would destroy or limit your patent rights.
Filing a provisional patent application in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is like sending the USPTO an email saying,
I think that I have invented something that may be valuable. I may or may not file a patent application to protect it within the next year. I am sending you this description of my invention to make it harder for people to steal my invention and to prove that I invented and filed it first. Please keep this a secret for one year, and let it lapse if I don’t file a non-provisional application within one year of this email.
That is exactly what the USPTO will do. The provisional patent application will be kept secret and not examined for 12 months. If you do not file a non-provisional patent application claiming priority to the provisional patent application within one year, then it will be as if you never filed the provisional patent application at all.
Warning: If you only file a provisional patent application, you will never get a patent.