How to Get a Temporary Patent

By Brette Sember, J.D.

How to Get a Temporary Patent

By Brette Sember, J.D.

A provisional, or temporary, patent is a quick and easy way to protect your invention while you finish your fundraising and prepare to file for a permanent, or nonprovisional, version. A provisional patent is less expensive than a nonprovisional one yet gives you the same level of protection, albeit on a temporary level.

Two people at desk with robots on it

How a provisional patent works.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues provisional patents that protect your invention for 12 months from the date of filing. No one can copy your work while it is under this, so filing this gives you immediate protection as you prepare your nonprovisional application.

The provisional patent is an easy first step in obtaining full protection for your invention. If you prefer, you can instead file directly for a nonprovisional one, but the process is more arduous and you have no protection during the process.

How to make your provisional patent nonprovisional.

Because a provisional patent is just a temporary step, you must file for a permanent, nonprovisional version during the above-stated 12-month period in order to keep your work protected past the 12-month mark. You can also convert your provisional patent to nonprovisional by filing, within the same 12-month period, a grantable petition requesting conversion.

If you do not follow one of these paths, once your 12-month provisional patent expires, you may be barred from filing for the same invention in the future. Filing a provisional one also allows you to use the words "patent pending" on your invention or product.

How to apply for a provisional patent.

Documenting the steps you took when conceiving your invention and then making it work will be immensely helpful for this process. To apply for a provisional patent, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the USPTO website. Start at the patent filing page. Choose the "EFS-Web Unregistered eFiler" option and create an account, then choose the options for a new application and provisional patent.
  2. Fill in information about the inventors and invention. On the next screen, complete this information. You must include the name of the invention, names and residences of inventors, and information about any U.S. government agency that has a property interest in the invention. All the inventors must sign the form.
  3. Complete the patent cover sheet. Fill out this form, save it, and then upload it to the online application e-filing page.
  4. Create a written description of the invention. The description must be written with enough detail to enable anyone skilled in the industry related to the invention to make and use the invention themselves. Follow the USPTO guidelines for writing a description. Upload this document on the e-filing web page.
  5. Submit drawings of the invention. You must do so if they are necessary to understand how the invention is made or used. Upload these drawings on the e-filing web page.
  6. Determine the amount of your filing fee. Fees change yearly, but there are three categories: large entity, small entity (50 or fewer employees), or micro entity. Determine which applies to your situation, then determine the amount of the fee using the online fee schedule. There may be additional fees if your total number of application pages exceeds 100.
  7. Submit all required documents and pay the calculated fee. Pay the online filing fee through the web portal to complete your submission.

You can also submit your application by mail, if you prefer. To do so, mail hard copies of the cover sheet, description, and drawings to Commissioner for Patents, P. O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450.

Following all of these outlined steps will get you started with a temporary patent. It's crucial to apply for your permanent patent within that 12-month time frame so you won't lose out on the opportunity to change its pending status on your invention, or lose out on the ability to protect your rights to it altogether.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.