3 Benefits of Filing a Provisional Patent Application

3 Benefits of Filing a Provisional Patent Application

3 Benefits of Filing a Provisional Patent Application

3 Benefits of Filing a Provisional Patent Application

If you have an innovative idea that may have commercial value, a good first step can be to file a provisional patent application. 

But what is and isn’t a provisional patent application, and what are the benefits? 

In the simplest terms it:

  • Is a stake in the ground to lay claim on your idea by setting a priority date. 
  • Allows you to discuss your idea publicly with less risk. 
  • Allows you to publish research with less risk of someone else filing a patent application on your idea. 
  • Gives you up to 12 months to gather everything for filing a non-provisional patent application or an international patent application. 

It is not, however, a patent. It is merely an application, and there is no such thing as a provisional patent. 

A provisional application will not undergo any review or examination by the patent office, and no official action will be taken. Those are reserved for when you follow your provisional application with a non-provisional application.  If you do not file a non-provisional patent application or international patent application within 12 months, the provisional application will be disregarded. Also, it should be noted that provisional applications are not available for design patents.

So why would one want to submit a provisional application rather than directly file a non-provisional application that would begin the examination process in earnest?  
There are three benefits to filing a provisional patent application:  


It can be limited to what is available at the time. Ideally, it describes structures, functions, and relationships of the idea through a specification (which is a written description), examples, drawings, and at least one claim. However, anything that illustrates possession of the idea at the time of filing can be used as a provisional patent application. Even a PowerPoint presentation can be filed, although that is not preferred. 

Low cost

The filing fee is as low as $80 for a micro-entity, and since it is not examined there are no search or examination fees as with a non-provisional application. You obtain a priority date for the low filing fee since the US is now a “first to file” country. It also uses the term “Patent Pending” in describing the status of your invention.


The provisional patent application buys you time. You have 12 months from filing a provisional application to the filing of the more involved and expensive non-provisional application. Use this time to evaluate the commercial potential and patentability, and even further develop your invention before investing the larger amounts of resources and money required for a non-provisional application.  It minimizes the risk of investing effort into something you ultimately determine is not worth patenting.

Next Steps

As always, consult a qualified and trusted patent attorney for each filing and to develop an overall intellectual property strategy, but a provisional patent application may be a great first step to cost-effectively protecting your invention. 

The consultants at the SBDC can help you with filing a provisional patent application. Feel free to reach us at 412-396-1633 or email us at duqsbdc@duq.edu.


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