Once your Provisional Application for Patent is filed, you have twelve months to file a Non-Provisional Application that claims the earlier filing date as the date of invention. This can be done in two ways:
- Filing a full patent application that claims the provisional application's filing date.
- Filing a petition to convert the provisional application into a Non-Provisional Application, along with all materials required to do so.
Although both of these actions result in a Non-Provisional Application, the overall patent term will differ. With the first option, the term will be measured from the filing date of the Provisional Application. With option two, your patent term will be measured from the filing date of your Non-Provisional Application. In short, the first option allows you to effectively receive an extra year of protection for your invention.
For the Non-Provisional Application to benefit from the Provisional Application's filing date, the description of the invention in the two applications must be similar. In other words, the USPTO must be able to confirm that the two descriptions both depict the same invention.
That's why it is important to be thorough in disclosing your invention in the provisional application. It is also why the USPTO recommends including the best possible illustrations with your Provisional Application.
Since Provisional Applications are not reviewed by the USPTO, filing one does not guarantee that you will ever be granted a patent. Non-Provisional Utility Patent Applications are evaluated on their own merits. Only if a Non-Provisional Application is approved will a patent issue.