A Provisional Application for Patent is a simple and inexpensive way to begin protecting your invention while you fully flesh it out, decide whether to pursue an full patent application, and do any market testing you may need.
Both a Provisional Application for Patent and a Non-Provisional Application for Patent apply to an invention that could ultimately become the subject of a utility patent.
A Provisional Application secures a priority filing date if a Non-Provisional Patent Application for the same invention is filed within 12 months.
Once a Provisional Application is filed, an inventor has exactly one year (if the invention hasn't previously been publicly disclosed) to file the Non-Provisional Application for the same invention.
If an inventor does not file an Non-Provisional Application within that timeframe, the Provisional Application for Patent is deemed abandoned.
This means the inventor loses the right to that filing date and may even lose ownership rights to the invention if it was disclosed to the public more than a year ago.
Filing a Provisional Application saves inventors costs upfront and allows them time to assess their invention's commercial value.
They can also conduct research and seek funding before committing to the cost and process of preparing a Non-Provisional Application.
A Non-Provisional Patent Application establishes an invention's filing date (unless it claims the benefit of an earlier filed application, such as a Provisional Application).
Filing a Non-Provisional Application starts the official examination process with the USPTO to determine if the invention is patentable.