Independent inventors who want to pitch their creations to potential manufacturers risk having their ideas stolen, and getting them to sign a nondisclosure agreement even before seeing the invention is highly unlikely. Fortunately, a procedure called the provisional patent application (PPA) has been authorized by Congress to help protect your intellectual property while buying time to file a patent application.

Why you should apply for a provisional patent

  • Filing provisional patent applications can preserve rights to the patent.

Under current patent laws, any disclosures or public sales that occur prior to filing a non-provisional patent application can interfere with the patenting process. Should this happen, provisional patents can grant you authority over the invention by granting an inventor the ability to claim a “patent pending” status for up to a year after the patent application is filed.

  • The cost for filing PPA is cheaper than that for a full patent.

Patent fees for the application range from $70 to $300, depending on whether it is for inventors with micro entity status, small entity status, or large companies. Seeking assistance from a local patent lawyer for your provisional application helps in completing your PPA, and may make it easier for you to apply for a full patent in the future.

  • The provisional patent filing process is much easier than regular patent applications.

Some complicated aspects in applying for a patent can be skipped in the PPA, such as the Patent Application Declaration and the Information Disclosure Statement required by patent law for full applications.

How to file a provisional patent application

The application process for a PPA consists of three major steps.

1. Check whether your idea is new by finding previous inventions.

It is important to pprovisional patent erform a basic prior art search to avoid wasting time and money and prevent potential issues. Patent examiners search for prior art to determine whether a patent applicant’s invented product or design is patentable. If the patent examiner finds a similar invention, the application will be denied. You may conduct the search by yourself or with the help of a patent attorney.

2. Provide an accurate and detailed description of how to make and use your invention.

The idea is to provide a detailed enough description to reproduce your invention, to establish exactly what it is that is being protected. These descriptions can be in the form of drawings, illustrations, or other means to visually portray the invention and how it works.

The process of making and using the invention can also be described narratively. The description of your invention is called the specification in your PPA, and should typically provide the following information:

  • Name of the invention and its inventors;
  • Circumstances of the invention process (whether it was under government contract);
  • Components of the invention and how they are connected;
  • Alternative ways to construct the invention;
  • Mechanism by which the invention operates;
  • Intended use for the invention; and
  • Alternative uses for the invention.

3. Fill out and file the appropriate forms with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

You can either mail your PPA to the patent-office, or submit it via electronic filing. Regardless of which method you pick, you should include basic information about the sender, the documents being sent (such as your specifications and drawings, if any), and the filing fees.

If you plan on obtaining a patent under provisional application, consult with any of our registered patent attorneys in Washington. Call us at War IP Law, PLLC to begin your application and get patent protection for your product or design from infringement.