Provisional Application for Patent


A provisional application is a “placeholder” for utility patents. An inventor may file a provisional application first, and then file a non-provisional application up to twelve months later. There are three main advantages to filing a provisional patent.

First, a provisional application for patent allows the inventor to use the filing date of the provisional patent application when filing the non-provisional application several months later. This is the primary reason to file a provisional application. Because the USPTO operates now, after the 2011 America Invents Act -AIA, under a “first to file” standard, it is important to file an application for an invention as early as possibly to avoid the risk of someone else filing a similar/identical patent first. A provisional patent gives inventors the ability to establish an effective filing date as early as twelve months before they have a non-provisional application ready.

Second, it allows the inventor to use the term “Patent Pending” in the description of the invention. This is effectively allows the inventor to begin promoting the invention in a commercial setting with greater security against the possibility of theft.

Third, a provisional patent is considerably cheaper and simpler than its non-provisional counterpart. This means that if an inventor doesn’t quite have the funding to file a non-provisional application, or the fine details of the invention aren’t quite finished yet, the provisional patent still gives the inventor the ability to establish an earlier effective filing date.

It is important to note that the 12-month grace period is unchangeable. An applicant filing a provisional patent has exactly 12 months to file a non-provisional application for the patent, or the advantage of the early filing date is lost. Additionally, the non-provisional application must specifically reference the provisional application.

Sections/Requirements of a Provisional Application for Patent

The requirements for a provisional application are as follows:

1.     A cover sheet that provides basic information regarding the inventor, invention, and attorney (if applicable).

2.     A written description of the invention (background and summary).

3.     A set of drawings, along with written explanations for each figure.


Formal drawings in a provisional application are not technically required, as the application is not examined based on merit. However, it is extremely helpful to have drawings that are as clear as possible, as it makes the process of filing the corresponding non-provisional application much smoother. 

Once an application meeting these requirements is sent to the USPTO with the requisite filing fee and is approved, it will be given a filing date and a filing receipt will be sent to the applicant. If there is a deficiency in the application (the filing fee is missing, for example), the USPTO will inform the applicant and will not give the application a filing date until the errors are corrected.

Additional Considerations for a Provisional Application for Patent

As an inventor decides whether or not a provisional application is right for his or her needs, there are some things to keep in mind when preparing a provisional patent application.

Provisional applications are only accepted for utility patents. They may not be filed for design applications. 

If there are multiple inventors associated with a patent, they must all have contributed to the invention, and their names must all be included in the application. Additionally, at least one of the inventors listed on the provisional patent must be listed on the corresponding non-provisional in order to receive the benefit of the early filing date.

Finally, in order for a non-provisional application to receive the benefit of the provisional patent, the claimed subject matter in the former must be supported by the description of the latter. To this end, it is important for the description of the invention in the provisional application to be as complete as possible.

PATENT, Trademark and IP Law Blog

  • Staff11/3/2017 4:20:04 PM

    An Introduction to Provisional Patent Applications

Marin Cionca | Founder of CIONCA IP

Marin Cionca, Esq.

Registered Patent Attorney

USPTO Reg. No. 63899

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About CIONCA® IP Law firm: We are an Irvine, Orange County, California based boutique intellectual property law firm with a focus on patent and trademark application, prosecution, opinion, licensing and IP enforcement services, including IP litigation, offering its IP services, other than IP litigation, primarily at flat fee rates. We serve local OC (Orange County) clients, as well as clients from the Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside Counties and clients throughout the state of California, the United States and also international clients, such as EU clients.

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