What is the Difference Between a Provisional Patent and a Non-Provisional Patent?

A non-provisional patent application is the regular application for a utility patent. This is what you submit to the USPTO for review and to obtain your patent. A provisional patent application, on the other hand, is not reviewed. To preserve the priority date set by a PPA, the corresponding non-provisional patent application must be filed before the provisional patent application is abandoned.

The non-provisional patent application relates to the PPA and is treated as if it had been filed on the date the PPA was filed. When the non-provisional patent application is filed, it is examined and, after approximately a year and a half of processing, costs of the examination will begin to accrue. Non-provisional patent laws require inventors to file a patent application within one year of submitting the product in any form. This includes printed images, displayed at trade shows, or images of the item.

If you don't file your application within that time period, your ability to apply for a patent will end. You can think of applying for a provisional or non-provisional patent as two ways to obtain a patent. The non-provisional path provides a one-step start for the patent process and the provisional path provides a two-step start for the patent process. Either route, when properly carried out, can result in a patent.

The two-step interim process will take approximately one year longer to receive a patent than the non-provisional one-step process. The non-provisional patent application is a patent application that, when properly filed in the USPTO, is placed in a queue and is examined by a patent examiner. If the examiner ultimately determines that non-provisional patent applications meet legal requirements, the non-provisional patent application can be issued in a USPTO. Each non-provisional patent application must contain a title, background of the invention, summary of the invention, detailed description of the invention, one or more claims and drawings, an oath or statement that complies with applicable rules, and a fee of about $530 (assuming you qualify as a small entity).

You might think that the provisional route provides a two-step start to the patent process, while the non-provisional application path is a one-step start. To ensure that the resulting patent applications receive the benefit of the provisional filing date of the patent application, it's recommended that the provisional patent application be drafted in the same way as a non-provisional application, with the exception that it's not necessary to include applications in the provisional application. In addition, it's often recommended to draft at least a few applications for a provisional application. If an application does not provide an adequate description of the invention, this may adversely affect an inventor's ability to obtain a valid patent.

The Patent Office will not review a provisional application or issue a patent directly on its basis. Therefore, there's no such thing as “a provisional patent”; only “a provisional patent application” exists. So why would someone file for a provisional application if it doesn't translate directly into a patent? A patent can be obtained from filing a non-provisional patent application within one year of filing date of provisional application when claiming benefit from it. Filing this non-provisional within one year is second step of two-stage process.

To retain benefit from filing date of provisional application, non-provisional must be filed within one year from date of filing provisional application; otherwise benefit from filing date will be forfeited. The temporary two-step route takes longer than non-provisional one-step route because provisional applications are never placed in queue at Patent Office for examination; only non-provisionals are placed in queue and examined. Another reason why two-step approach could be chosen is when disclosure is needed before invention is fully developed. Often new products are developed within deadline so they can be shown to customer or presented at trade show or otherwise made available to public; patent law encourages filing before certain events like public exhibition or offer to sell invention.

Therefore if deadline exists for making offer for sale or public exhibition but believe development will continue or features will be added within one year then provisional can be drafted and submitted before any exhibition for most protected approach.

Mitchell Michniak
Mitchell Michniak

Hipster-friendly coffeeaholic. Total coffee junkie. Subtly charming pop culture specialist. Internet scholar. Certified tv aficionado.

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