What You Need to Know about Filing Provisional Patent Applications

Last updated: July 1, 2022

What is a provisional patent application?

A provisional patent application (PPA) is a legal document that helps to quickly and inexpensively secure an early priority date for your invention. The protection is valid for 12 months, after which you must file a regular non-provisional patent application or PCT application. Having a provisional patent application does not guarantee that you will receive an actual patent but its filing date helps you to start the patenting process.

For small inventors or startups, the provisional application is an inexpensive way to get a “patent pending” label on their invention which in turn can help them in their marketing and funding discussions. Many companies also look at provisional applications as a way to keep their invention disclosure away from the public eye for a longer period.

Which countries have a PPA setup in their patent systems?

PPA is popular in the US as it is used by many inventors and startups. In the US, provisional applications are not examined or published. They remain pending at the US Patent Office for 12 months, after which the application gets abandoned unless the applicant files for a non-provisional patent application against the provisional application.

Other major countries including China, Japan, India, EPO, Australia, Canada, Africa, New Zealand, etc. also support provisional patent applications but they use different terms to refer to it.

Although the timeline for filing provisional and non-provisional applications may vary, their purpose is the same, i.e. to provide an early priority date and filing at a lesser price than a complete patent application.

Tips on what to include in a PPA

Provisional application writing is quite simple. There is no strict format or rules that must be followed for this document. It is advisable though to disclose your invention thoroughly so that you can support the subsequent non-provisional applications. Refer to this checklist given below for points on what to add in a PPA.

Tips on what to include in a PPA

Identifying a provisional application

The priority details of a record contain details of the applications filed against it. Within this, you can easily spot a provisional application. In PatSeer, you will find provisional patent applications with the application number followed by ‘P’. (See the image below).

USPTO provisional applications usually have an application number with the series 60 to 63 depending upon the year of filing. The final application number is different from the provisional number.

Identifying a provisional application

PatSeer is an IP collaboration platform with a high-quality global patent collection that is regularly updated using data from patent offices worldwide . Use PatSeer’s patent analysis tools to track a patent’s lifecycle, up-to-date legal status and litigation opposition data to gain insights across all these connected data points.

Benefits of a provisional application

Getting a PPA is less expensive than a complete non-provisional patent application because you may not require the services of a patent attorney. Hence, it helps you get a priority date for your invention sooner. A PPA is usually the first step towards obtaining a patent for your invention which gives you time to test and perfect the concept prior to filing a full patent. Your idea can’t be stolen as the “patent pending” label has legal validity. Therefore, during those 12 months, you can search for manufacturers, develop the prototypes further or sell products related to it, while claiming the “patent pending” status.

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