We are asked all the time what is a provisional patent application (PPA), and what are the benefits of filing a PPA. A PPA is a patent application that can be used to secure your filing date without having all the added costs associated with filing and prosecuting a non-provisional patent application. If a non-provisional patent application is filed within one year of filing a PPA you may claim the benefit of the filing date of the PPA. In other words it is a place holder for you to be able to determine whether your invention is commercially viable before spending a lot of money on filing fees, and prosecution of a non-provisional application. Another key point is that a PPA will not lead to public disclosure, it does not get published unless its application number is noted in a later published application or patent.
A PPA gives you the application the ability to have an additional year to experiment, perfect your invention, find venture capitalist, market it, license it, or test the market before filing a non-provisional application. In addition, you can put “Patent Pending” on your invention, business plan, pitch deck, or marketing materials helping you keep the “Wolfs at Bay” until you are able to file the non-provisional and eventually get it issued into a patent.
A PPA has a time limit of one-year. If a non-provisional application is not filed within that year then there are no extensions available and you lose that priority date. By law you have to file a non-provisional application within the year or lose the benefit of the filing date. In addition, at the year mark you will have to file your International or Foreign Application at the same time claiming the benefit of the PPA. One risk you take by filing a PPA is that if during the year you add new matter, or new material to your invention that is not covered in your PPA, the new material may not rely on the PPA filing date, which could affect patentability if a reference disclosing the later-described invention is published after the filing of the PPA, but before the filing date of the non-provisional application.
So the question is what do I need to file a PPA? www.uspto.gov/forms
1. A written description of your invention that meets the requirements of 35 USC 112. What is it, how does it function, how do the parts work together. This should be clear enough to enable someone skilled in the art the ability to make and use your invention;
2. Drawings as Necessary; and
3. Fees.
The USPTO gives a great summary of a PPA as listed below:
  1. A PPA expires after one year.
  2. You cannot extend a PPA.
  3. You cannot renew a PPA.
  4. A PPA will never become a patent.
  5. You cannot file a PPA for a design .
  6. The USPTO does not examine PPAs .
  7. The USPTO does not conduct a prior art .search on PPAs
  8. The USPTO does review PPAs to make sure they meet minimum filing requirements.
  9. PPAs are not published by the USPTO (unless claimed as priority in a later-issued or published non-provisional application).
  10. You can use the term “patent pending” for the duration of the one-year pendency of a PPA