Filing a Provisional Patent Application

A provisional patent application (PPA) is filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and protects a new invention from being copied for up to 12 months. PPAs give inventors time to pitch, test, and refine their innovations before committing to the strenuous process of filing a formal patent application.

The Differences between a PPA and a Formal Patent Application

A PPA is an efficient way to protect an invention in the short term. Filing a PPA allows an inventor to claim “patent pending” status for their invention for 12 months but involves only a small fraction of the work required to complete a formal patent application. PPAs are also much cheaper than formal patent applications.

A PPA alone, however, will not get you a patent; it allows you to preserve your rights while deciding whether to file for a regular patent. If you do not file a formal patent application within the 12-month timeframe, you will no longer have any patent protection for your invention.

Step 1: Finding Previous Inventions

The first step in the process of filing a PPA is to ensure your invention is new. Patent officials look at “prior art”—previous inventions—to ensure no one else has created or patented a similar invention before you. Thus, a basic prior art search should usually be conducted before filing your application.

Step 2: Describing Your Invention

Next, you must explain precisely what your invention is, what it does, and how to make it. You can accomplish this step with drawings and in writing.

The term “drawing” refers to any illustration of your invention, like a line drawing, flowchart, or photograph. Although you are not required to include an illustration in your application, it is helpful to have one to depict your invention fully. There are no rules for including drawings, except they must be understandable and fit into a regular file folder.

The written description of your patent is often called the “specification.” When describing your invention in writing, you will want to address the following questions:

– What is the name of your invention?
– What are the parts or components?
– How do the components connect?
– How does the invention operate?
– Are there other ways to construct your invention?
– Can your invention be used in more than one way?

It is often helpful to include as much detail as possible in your specification to paint a clear picture of what you intend to produce.

Step 3: Filing Your Provisional Patent Application

The last step is to file your provisional patent application either by mail or electronically. Both methods require you to include:

– Basic information about who you are and what you’re sending
– Your specification
– Your drawings, if any
– The filing fee

Should you need assistance applying for a PPA with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a consultation.

Griffith Barbee PLLC

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