The US Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, has offered inventors the option of filing provisional patent applications since 1995. The purpose of the provisional application is to give inventors a low-cost way to complete an initial filing while determining if it is worthwhile to go through the nonprovisional patent application process. Inventors who file provisional patent applications are permitted to use the term “patent pending” for their inventions. A provisional patent application can be mailed to the USPTO, or submitted online using a secure system known as the EFS-Web.
Draft your provisional patent application. The application consists of a written description of the invention, drawings of the invention, and an oath which states that the invention is your original creation.
Prepare a cover sheet for your provisional patent application. The cover sheet is required by the USPTO and must include the name and residence of the inventor, the title of the invention, and a mailing address. If you have retained a patent attorney, his name should also be included on the provisional patent application cover sheet. You can fill out the cover sheet at the agency’s website for online submissions, or print it out if you are mailing your application.
Submit your completed provisional patent application. For online submissions, you upload your application, cover sheet and filing fee to the EFS-Web. The system supports several file types, including PDF and text files. Online submissions can be completed in a matter of minutes, and you are issued an electronic receipt of your transaction. Paper submissions must be mailed to the Commissioner of Patents in Alexandria, Va. The filing fees may change on an annual basis, so you should consult the USPTO’s website regarding the appropriate fee.