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Utility Patents FAQs

What is the difference between a Provisional Application for Patent and a Non-Provisional Utility Patent Application?

A Provisional Application for Patent is far easier and less expensive to file than a non-provisional Utility Patent Application. Although Provisional Applications receive almost no scrutiny at the time of their filing, they will be reviewed at the time a corresponding Non-Provisional Patent Application is filed, so applicants filing Provisional Applications should take care to disclose the "best mode" and meet the "enablement" requirement and establish novelty. A Provisional Application provides temporary and limited protection for the inventor of the covered item. Filing a Provisional Application establishes an early filing date for your corresponding Non-Provisional Patent Application. In contrast, a Non-Provisional Patent Application is an application for the grant of a full patent, which, if issued, will provide complete patent protection for the applicant's invention.

People file Provisional Applications to secure the earliest possible start date for patent protection. An inventor who files a Provisional Application can use the term "patent pending" in connection with his or her invention if he or she intends to later file a full patent application. That inventor must file his or her corresponding Non-Provisional Patent Application within 12 months of the date the Provisional Application was filed. If the patent is granted, the patent's filing date will be the same as for the provisional application, effectively protecting the invention for a total of 21 years.