Provisional Patent Application

DEFINITION of 'Provisional Patent Application'

A short-term means of protecting an invention that requires less effort and expense than obtaining a formal patent. Filing a provisional patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) enables independent inventors to put a “patent pending” label on their idea for up to 12 months. This allows them to safeguard their intellectual property while they pitch their idea to manufacturers or buy time while they refine their product.

BREAKING DOWN 'Provisional Patent Application'

Compared to a traditional patent, provisional patent applications (PPAs) are simpler and more concise – frequently taking less than 10 pages. In the application, the filer explains the product’s design and the purpose that it serves.

PPAs are also much less expensive than a full utility patent, which typically requires the help of an attorney. The filing fee is $65 for a micro-entity, $130 for a small firm and $260 for a large business.

There are a couple of major benefits to obtaining a provisional patent. First, inventors don’t have to worry about a manufacturer stealing their idea because the temporary “patent pending” label signals a potential lawsuit in the event of infringement. Secondly, PPAs allow inventors to perfect their concept prior to filing a full patent. Also important: It puts on the record an official filing date with the USPTO. Being the "first inventor to file" could be important in getting a patent later on. See Patents Are Assets, So Learn How To Value Them.