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What Is a Provisional Patent?

Law Office of Julie Scott LLC June 20, 2024

Provisional Patent write on sticky notes isolated on Wooden TableA patent is a type of intellectual property that grants the holder exclusive rights to an invention and prevents others from making, using, selling, or distributing the patented invention without permission. Patents are crucial for fostering innovation by providing inventors with the legal protection to commercialize their innovations and secure a return on their investments.  

While there are numerous types of patents, a provisional patent offers inventors a cost-effective and temporary means to secure an early filing date for their invention. It allows inventors to use the term "patent pending" for their invention, providing them with 12 months to develop the invention, assess its commercial potential, or seek funding before filing for a non-provisional patent. 

At the Law Office of Julie Scott LLC, I have helped numerous clients secure provisional patents. I can help you better understand whether a provisional patent is right for you and guide you through the filing process. Located in Kansas City, Missouri, I proudly serve clients throughout Columbia, Springfield, and Rolla. 

Understanding Provisional Patents? 

A provisional patent is a temporary, one-year patent that is filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It provides inventors with a filing date for their invention and establishes the invention as "patent pending." This means that while the provisional patent is pending, others cannot obtain a patent for the same invention.  

A provisional patent does not require extensive formalities or claims like a non-provisional (regular) patent application. Additionally, it does not mature into an issued patent by itself. Instead, it allows the inventor to establish an early filing date, giving them 12 months to further develop their invention and gather the necessary resources and information before filing for a non-provisional patent.  

This year period is part of the "first to file" patent system, which can enhance the likelihood of an inventor obtaining a non-provisional patent application later on. For businesses and startups, filing a provisional patent offers a cost-effective way to gauge the commercial viability of an invention before committing to the higher costs associated with a non-provisional patent application. 

Types of Inventions That Can Be Filed Under a Provisional Patent 

A provisional patent application can be filed for a wide range of inventions across various fields and industries. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Mechanical inventions: Devices and machines with moving parts, such as tools, engines, and hardware systems 

  • Electrical inventions: Innovations such as new circuit designs, batteries, electrical devices, and electronic components 

  • Software inventions: Computer programs and software-related innovations, such as new algorithms, software applications, and computer-implemented processes 

  • Chemical inventions: Chemical compositions, formulations, and processes, such as new pharmaceuticals, chemical compounds, or methods for producing chemical products 

  • Biotechnological inventions: Innovations in the biotechnology field, such as genetically engineered plants or microorganisms, new medical treatments, and diagnostic methods 

  • Methods and processes: New methods of doing something or new processes, such as a novel manufacturing process or a new way of conducting business operations 

  • Designs: Conceptual aspects of a design before refining it into a finalized product 

Benefits of Filing a Provisional Patent 

In addition to obtaining an early filing date and a "patent pending" status for your invention, filing for a provisional patent offers additional advantages to inventors and businesses who want to protect their intellectual property. Some of the key benefits include: 

  • Cost-effectiveness: A provisional patent has a lower cost compared to a non-provisional patent. This makes it accessible for individual inventors, startups, and small enterprises who may have limited resources, allowing them to allocate funds towards further developing their inventions. 

  • Time for further development: A provisional patent provides a 12-month window during which inventors can continue to develop their inventions through additional research, prototype development, and market testing with potential users or stakeholders. 

  • Opportunity for commercial viability assessments: A provisional patent allows inventors to assess the commercial potential of their invention before filing for a more expensive non-provisional patent. This time can be used to conduct market research, explore licensing opportunities, and secure funding. 

  • Flexibility: A provisional patent does not require formal patent claims, allowing inventors to describe their inventions in broad terms without having to meet the stringent requirements of a non-provisional patent. Additionally, inventors can make modifications to their inventions during this period and incorporate these changes when filing for a non-provisional patent. 

How to File for a Provisional Patent in Missouri 

To file for a provisional patent in Missouri, it's important to follow several critical steps to make sure your invention is protected under United States law. Although the process is conducted through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), inventors located in Missouri can follow the same national procedures while benefiting from local legal support. 

  1. Document your invention: Before filing, thoroughly detail how your invention works, the problem it solves, and how it's different from existing solutions. Create drawings or diagrams if necessary as these will help illustrate your invention clearly. 

  1. Conduct a patent search: Perform a patent search to make sure your invention isn't already patented. Utilize the USPTO’s online database or consult an experienced patent law attorney in Missouri to help you with the search. A thorough search can save time and resources by identifying potential conflicts early. 

  1. Draft a provisional patent application: The application should include a written description of the invention, any necessary drawings, and a cover sheet that identifies the invention, its inventors, and contact information. The description should be detailed enough to enable someone skilled in the particular field to understand and replicate the invention. 

  1. Complete the provisional patent cover sheet: Obtain and complete the Provisional Patent Cover Sheet (Form SB/16). This form is available on the USPTO website and requires the title of your invention, the names of all inventors, their residence, and the correspondence address. 

  1. Pay the filing fee: Pay the required filing fee. The filing fee for a provisional patent application varies based on the size of the entity (micro, small, or large). Check the USPTO Fee Schedule to determine the correct fee that applies to you and make the payment accordingly. 

  1. Submit the application to the USPTO: Filing your provisional patent application with the USPTO can be done electronically through the USPTO’s Electronic Filing System (EFS-Web) or by mailing the application documents to the USPTO’s address. Electronic filing is recommended. 

  1. Keep a copy of your filing receipt: After submitting your application, the USPTO will issue a filing receipt with a provisional application number and filing date. This document proves the submission and grants you "patent pending" status for your invention. Keep this receipt in a secure location. 

After you've submitted your application, you can use the 12-month period to further develop and refine your invention. If you intend to file for a subsequent non-provisional patent, be sure to consider filing before the provisional patent expires. The non-provisional application must be filed within 12 months of your provisional filing to benefit from the earlier filing date. 

Seek Experienced Legal Counsel 

Filing a provisional patent is a strategic and cost-effective approach for inventors and businesses looking to protect their innovative ideas and secure an early filing date. If you're considering filing a provisional patent or need assistance with any aspect of the patent process, reach out to me at the Law Office of Julie Scott LLC.  

I am committed to helping you secure your intellectual property. Contact me today to schedule a free consultation.