Since June 8, 1995, the PTO has offered inventors the option of filing a provisional application for a patent which was designed to provide a lower cost first patent filing in the United States and to give U.S. applicants parity with foreign applicants.
Claims and oath or declaration are not required for a provisional application. Provisional application provides the means to establish an early effective filing date in a patent application and permits the term Patent Pending to be applied in connection with the invention. Provisional applications may not be filed for design inventions.
The filing date of a provisional application is the date on which a written description of the invention, drawings if necessary, and the name of the inventor(s) are received in the PTO. To be complete, a provisional application must also include the filing fee, and a cover sheet specifying that the application is a provisional application for patent. Applicant would then have up to twelve months to file a non-provisional application for patent as described above. The claimed subject matter in the later filed non-provisional application is entitled to the benefit of the filing date of the provisional application if it has support in the provisional application.
If a provisional application is not filed in English, then any non-provisional application claiming priority to the provisional application must have a translation of the provisional application.
Provisional applications are not examined on their merits. A provisional application will become abandoned by the operation of law twelve months from its filing date. The twelve month pendency for a provisional application is not counted toward the 20 year term of a patent granted on a subsequently filed non-provisional application which relies on the filing date of the provisional application.
A surcharge is required for filing the basic filing fee or the cover sheet on a date later than the filing of the provisional application.
How To File a Provisional Application for a Utility Patent