There are two types of patent applications: the provisional patent application and the non-provisional patent application.  For an initial patent filing, the provisional patent application is generally the lower cost option. Unlike the non-provisional patent application, the provisional patent application allows patent filing without a formal patent claim, oath or declaration, or any information disclosure statement of pre-existing inventions (prior art). It also allows the term "Patent Pending" to be applied in connection with the description of the invention.  By filing a provisional patent, the inventor benefits in three ways:

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  1. It’s easier and less expensive to assess the ability to patent your invention using a provisional patent compared to the non-provisional patent process.
  2. You can get an earlier filing date by using the provisional patent application.  After filing a corresponding non-provisional application within one year, the resulting publication or patent will be given the earlier provisional application filing date.
  3. Your patent term can be extended by up to one year, since the twenty-year patent term is still measured from the later non-provisional application filing date.
A provisional application for a patent is valid for 12 months from the date it is filed, and the 12-month period cannot be extended.  An applicant who files a provisional patent application must file a corresponding non-provisional patent application during the 12-month period to benefit from the earlier filing date.   By filing a provisional application first, and then filing a corresponding non-provisional application within the 12 month period, the term of the patent can be extended by as much as 12 months.

Although the provisional patent application is less involved than the non-provisional patent application, you should still take care to adequately describe the invention.  The provisional application's filing date can remain valid even after the related non-provisional patent application is filed, but only if the invention was described thoroughly in the preliminary application.

Did you know that you can file your provisional patent application online?  Rocket Lawyer takes you through the patent filing process, step by step.  Begin your provisional patent application today.  Check out the complete Patent Center for more help.

If you need more patent help, it’s easy to find a patent lawyer.

Get started Create Your Provisional Patent Application Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Get started Create Your Provisional Patent Application Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.