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Provisional Application FAQs

What are the description guidelines for a Provisional Application for Patent?

Descriptions submitted with a provisional application for patent can be informal. This means they do not need to be in a standardized form. However, the USPTO strongly recommends submitting specific descriptions that adequately describe how to make and use your invention. This is because highly detailed descriptions make it easier for the USPTO to later associate your non-provisional patent application with your earlier-filed provisional application. If your Provisional Application for Patent fails to meet this requirement, your corresponding Non-Provisional Application may not receive the Provisional Application's priority filing date.

On the other hand, with the shift from "first-to-invent" to "first-inventor-to-file," you will want to file your provisional application as soon as possible—what's most important is that you file a provisional application as soon as you have enough detail to prove that you filed first for the invention contained in your application. This way, you preserve the earliest possible filing date, at least for what is disclosed in your initial provisional application. Multiple provisional applications can be combined into a single, later-filed non-provisional application--bearing in mind that you must file the non-provisional application within 12 months of any provisional application to take advantage of that provisional filing date.