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What is a provisional patent application?

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2023 | Patent Law

The patent process is inherently time-sensitive. The longer that an individual inventor or innovative business waits to file a patent, the more likely their invention will be impacted by claims of prior art. It is important to submit a non-provisional patent application soon as soon as possible, as claims of prior art are evaluated against the date upon which the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) receives that application. 

Yet, it is also important to prepare for the reality that drafting a patent application takes time. Applications for the most complex inventions can often take close to one year for experienced patent attorneys to complete. 

To help balance the competing interests of submitting a patent application as soon as possible and ensuring that completed applications are thorough and ready to be fully evaluated, the USPTO has created the provisional patent application process. 

The benefits of submitting a provisional patent application

An inventor or innovative business can submit a provisional patent application up to 365 days before they submit their final, non-provisional patent application. If this provisional patent application is approved, the USPTO will evaluate claims of prior art related to the patent in question based on the submission date of the applicant’s provisional patent application, not the non-provisional patent application.

Essentially, by filing this initial application – which essentially provides notice to the USPTO that the invention it details is close to completion and that a patent application for the invention will be submitted within 365 days – those who are seeking patent protection can safeguard their work against claims of prior art for up to a solid year while they work with an experienced legal professional to complete their non-provisional patent application.