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Provisional Patent Application Overview

While deciding whether to file a patent application, it is important to consider both your short- and long-term goals in view of your finances and the current state of your idea. Depending on these factors you may be deciding between filing a provisional or non-provisional application. A provisional patent application is a type of patent application that serves as a placeholder for a non-provisional patent application, providing the applicant with a priority date for their invention and a one-year window to follow up and file a non-provisional application.

Whereas, a non-provisional patent application is the formal patent application submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which offers the opportunity for patent rights. While a provisional patent application does not guarantee patent protection, it can be a valuable tool for inventors and businesses to “get their foot in the door” and begin the patent process.

Here are some reasons why provisional patent applications are important:

  1. Establishing priority – A provisional patent application establishes a priority date for your invention, which can be important in establishing your ownership of the invention in case of a legal dispute. This priority date also gives you a one-year window to file a non-provisional patent application and claim priority over any subsequent applications.
  2. Delaying expenses – Filing a provisional patent application can be less expensive than filing a full patent application. It also allows you to delay some of the costs associated with a full patent application, such as paying for a formal patent search or hiring a patent attorney.
  3. Protecting intellectual property – A provisional patent application allows you to disclose your invention to potential investors, partners, and customers without risking the loss of your patent rights. This is because provisional patent applications are not published, which means that the details of your invention remain confidential until you file a non-provisional patent application.
  4. Providing time to refine your invention – A provisional patent application gives you a year to refine and develop your invention before filing a full patent application. This extra time can be useful for making improvements to your invention, testing it in the market, or exploring potential partnerships.
  5. Enhancing marketability – A provisional patent application can enhance the marketability of your invention by demonstrating that you have taken steps to protect your intellectual property. This can make your invention more attractive to investors and potential partners. Additionally, once a provisional or non-provisional application is filed, you may advertise that your invention is “patent pending.”

It’s important to note that a provisional patent application is not a substitute for a full patent application. A provisional application does not result in a granted patent and must be followed by a non-provisional application within one year to maintain priority. However, a provisional patent application can provide valuable benefits and should be considered as part of an overall intellectual property strategy.

If you or your business is interested in intellectual property services, such as drafting patent applications, contact Andrew G. Martin or your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

This alert serves as a general summary and does not constitute legal guidance. Please contact us with any specific questions.

Andrew G. Martin is an experienced registered patent attorney with history working in the automotive, electrical, and agricultural industries. He regularly advises startups and small businesses on the patent and trademark prosecution process, assisting clients from start to finish. You can reach him at 517.377.0834 or at