provisional patents

What You Need to Know About Provisional Patents

Are you an entrepreneur with a novel idea? Are you trying to figure out how to protect your vision and use it to create a business? Then you should know and understand the importance of provisional patents.

What You Need to Know About Provisional Patents

Let’s start with a bunch of questions that you and every other entrepreneur probably have when they hear this term.

What Is A Provisional Patent?

Think of a provisional patent as a temporary patent that serves as a placeholder. If you have an idea you’d like to protect, you file a provisional patent to protect the date on which you had the idea.

A provisional patent application (PPA) is a document issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that helps protect a new invention from being copied during the 12-month period before a formal patent application is filed.


What You Need For The Application

A provisional patent application requires a few things, including (information via the website):

  • the application as a provisional application for patent;
  • the name(s) of all inventors;
  • inventor residence(s);
  • title of the invention;
  • name and registration number of attorney or agent and docket number (if applicable);
  • correspondence address; and
  • any U.S. Government agency that has a property interest in the application.

The provisional patent does not require much detail about the idea itself. Instead, the description of your idea should be a general overview, including what makes it unique and potentially patentable. Once filed, you have one year to work on and file an official patent, breaking down the details of the idea and the unique aspects to be protected.

Who Needs A Provisional Patent?

Anyone with an idea to protect should file a provisional patent. Doing so protects the date at which the investor had the idea and the people involved and gives you time to start the research process to see if your idea is truly unique.

Why Do You Need One?

If you’re looking to build a company around your patent, then it’s important to be aware that other people may have the same idea. Having a provisional patent is what can differentiate you from others because legally, whoever had the idea first, can lay claim to the idea itself.

Think of your provisional patent as a save the date for your idea.

Patent coverage is limited to this country. If you want to protect your ideas abroad, separate patent applications filed locally are required.

How Do You File A Provisional Patent?

There are a few ways you can go about this. You can hire a lawyer to take of it for you, though be aware that this will include the patent filing fee and lawyer’s legal fees.

You can also use sites such as Legal Zoom or the U.S. patent website,, via Form SB-16, which is the Provisional Application for Patent Cover Sheet. On this sheet, you’ll need to list the inventors, the title of the invention, and contact address. It also includes a disclosure.

What you’ll need:

  • Application Data Sheet
  • Drawings of the invention
  • Specification (description of the invention)

You can submit your application electronically or by mail with the standard $300 filing fee. If you’re a small entity (less than 500 employees), you pay $150; micro-entities pay $75 (entities with less than four patents and gross income less than 3x median household income).

When Do You File a Provisional Patent?

As soon as you have an idea you think you can protect, file this application. Then you have a year to refine it and submit it for a full patent officially. As mentioned above, this filing protects the date on which you had the idea and the general concept behind it.

Can A Provisional Patent Be Rejected?

Provisional patents do not undergo review by the U.S. Patent and Trade office. Because they are a placeholder for the date the idea was generated, and because complete detailed submission of the concept is not required, there is no review for these documents.

A Non-provisional patent application, the actual full patent application filed within 12 months of the provisional, is reviewed. This application may be rejected if the patent is similar to something already protected or if the idea is not something that can be patented.

In Summary

Provisional patents are an essential step to take when building a business and protecting yourself. File them as soon as possible, keep good records, and engage in legal help if you think you need it.

Final Thoughts

Trying to build something new and unique is an uphill battle. The road to success is paved with uncertainty. The only thing you can do is protect yourself, take care to ensure that you don’t skip any important steps, and arm yourself with information to help you continue moving forward.

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