How to Write a Provisional Patent Application

By David Carnes

Filing a formal patent application is expensive and time-consuming, and usually requires the services of an experienced patent attorney. You can, however, file a provisional patent application with much less effort and without retaining an attorney. Filing a provisional patent application will put your invention in "patent pending" status for 12 months, preventing anyone else from filing for patent protection for the same invention. This 12-month window will buy you time to file a formal application.

Step 1

Complete the cover sheet, fee transmittal form and application data sheet. These can be obtained on the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You must supply basic information such as the names and residence addresses of the inventors, the name of the invention and a correspondence address.

Step 2

Create specifications. Specifications constitute a precise description of your invention using as much technical language as necessary. Specifications can be dozens of pages long in some cases.

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Step 3

Make drawings, graphs, diagrams and any other visual aids that are necessary to supplement your specifications. Your specifications and visual aids, taken together, should allow a person skilled in the field to which your invention belongs to manufacture your invention himself.

Step 4

Convert all your documents to PDF files, if you intend to file your application online.

Step 5

Calculate your filing fee by referring to the fee transmittal form. The filing fee varies according to several factors. Obtain a certified check or money order made out to the USPTO, if you are submitting your application by surface mail.

Step 6

Submit the cover sheet, fee transmittal form, application data sheet, specifications, visual aids and filing fee by surface mail to the Commissioner for Patents, P. O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450, or online using the USPTO's EFS-Web electronic filing system. The USPTO will respond by sending you an application tracking number, and will confirm your filing date.

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How to Get a Temporary Patent

A provisional patent offers some of the same protections of a non-provisional patent, such as legal protection of your invention from use by someone else, but is cheaper than a non-provisional patent and expires 12 months from the filing date. An applicant who files a provisional application must file a corresponding non-provisional application for patent during the 12-month pendency period of the provisional application to benefit from the earlier filing of the provisional application. An alternative to filing a corresponding non-provisional application is to convert the provisional application to a non-provisional application by filing a grantable petition requesting such a conversion within 12 months of the provisional application filing date. If you do not do this, you may be prevented from filing a patent for your invention in the future. Once granted a provisional patent, you may use the term "patent pending" on your invention.

How Do I Patent My Idea?

A patent protects an inventor's right to produce the product he invented, preventing others from selling or using the product. Federal law provides patents as a way to encourage innovation by giving inventors ownership over their own ideas. Since patents can only be granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you must apply through that office before you can receive your patent.

How to Patent Food Ideas

If you have some great food ideas and want the exclusive right to manufacture or sell them in the United States, obtaining a patent on each idea is a smart thing to do. To obtain patent protection, you must file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. A separate patent application must be filed for each food product or recipe idea, and your application must reflect a tested process or product rather than just a vague idea.

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