From a legal standpoint, nothing stops an inventor from preparing a patent application (or a provisional patent application) without the help of a lawyer. Thousands of inventors do this regularly, using self-help guides such as Patent It Yourself by Nolo, Patent Pending in 24 Hours or the online provisional patent application process. A provisional patent application is not thoroughly examined by a patent examiner, so it is wise to contact an attorney before filing your full patent application. Even if you use an online service, you can benefit from the experience of a professional patent attorney.
In addition to receiving advice from a lawyer, ContractsCounsel connects clients with lawyers specializing in trademarks so that they can obtain the protection they need for their invention. If you are going to write your own patent, it's a good idea to have a patent lawyer review what you write. It's important to make sure you have enough information before you file a provisional patent application. However, a provisional patent application will not form part of an granted patent on its own, and even so, you will have to file a non-provisional patent application, which is much more difficult to prepare than a provisional patent application. Unlike a non-provisional patent application, the provisional patent application may include a modest number of applications.
Don't hesitate to call inventors (or companies) who turn to the patent lawyer and ask them if they could recommend a lawyer for you. It will cost much less than paying a lawyer to draft your patent application and will provide you with virtually the same benefit. The value of most patents comes from their applications, so look for lawyers who receive broad claims that contain specific, meaningful language. A provisional patent application does not have a specific format, while a non-provisional patent application includes specific parts of the non-provisional patent application that must be included and drafted correctly. This 12-month period cannot be extended, so if you don't file the non-provisional patent within the designated time frame, you will no longer have any patent protection for your invention.
Since the provisional patent has limited protection and an official patent will never be issued, you may wonder when and why to use it. You should seek legal advice to avoid common mistakes and to ensure that your provisional patent provides you with the protection you need. While filing a provisional patent application without a legal expert may seem overwhelming, there are many benefits. While the costs of filing a provisional patent application are lower than those of a full-fledged utility patent application, they are still higher than those of a non-provisional application. Filing a provisional patent application without the help of a lawyer may be an option for some inventors, but certain risks must be taken into account. For more details, see the content of provisional and non-provisional applications, section 601 I of the MPEP.
While you can complete a provisional patent application on your own, it's always best to seek legal advice when considering this option.