Provisional patent applications (PPAs) were introduced into USPTO practice in 1994. as a means to make it easier for independent inventors and small companies to obtain protection for their ideas, enabling them to market their ideas more securely without large capital expenditures. Please note a PPA is not a patent, and does not guarantee or even result in a patent. A PPA it’s just an application which gives you the priority filing date for the protection of your idea if a patent is granted. It also allows you to use a “patent pending” mark on any presentation or communication related to your idea, or even on a product that may come as a result of it.
Several countries including China, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States offer provisional patent applications. In the United States, you can only file a PPA for a utility patent. The PPA is in force for 12 months, after which you can either let it expire or file for a non-provisional applicatrion. The USPTO allows the inventor with a PPA to obtain a priority date, a patent pending designation, and the corresponding filing number. Filing a PPA is much simpler, faster, and less expensive than filing a regular non-provisional patent application. Correspondingly, it offers less protection – up to one year, instead of 20.
Filing the PPA has several advantages over filing a non-provisional patent application:
Here’s a short and simple checklist what you will need to have prepared for filing a provisional patent application.
When your application is ready, it can be easily and quickly filed online at the USPTO website, in which case you will need to use your credit card to make pay the filing fee.
You may also print out your documents, including the filing fee in the form of a certified check or money order made out to the director of the US patent and trademark office. Then you may mail everything to the following address:
Commissioner for patents,
PO Box 1450.
Alexandra, VA. 22313-1450.
Detailed information about preparing and submitting provisional patent applications may be obtained at the USPTO website.
Here are a few pitfalls to watch out for when filing a provisional patent application: