A provisional patent application cover sheet will be required when applying for a provisional patent.

Provisional Patent Application Cover Sheet

A provisional patent application is not legally binding and does not actually patent your invention. However, it does give you a full year from the filing date to submit the forms and payments you need to make the non-provisional patent a reality. During this time, your invention is "patent pending" and protected.

Provisional patents are an important application strategy whereby the application will not be examined, but rather a filing date will be set for the purposes of patent priority. After submitting your provisional application, you will have 12 months to submit a non-provisional application. During this time, you will have priority if someone else tries to then file for a similar invention or patent.

A cover sheet will be needed for the provisional application. The cover sheet can be relatively simple, but it is important to follow its requirements carefully to ensure your provisional application is accepted. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has several forms that are useful, as well as recommended cover sheet templates. These include its general provisional patent application form as well as its data form. The USPTO forms are in PDF format and can be downloaded from the USPTO website.

How to Fill Out a Provisional Patent Application

The provisional application is important to complete because whoever files first gets the rights to the patent. A full non-provisional application can be quite complex and expensive to prepare, as it requires significant drawings, descriptions, and other thought-out materials. A provisional application is relatively simple in comparison but allows the filer to temporarily claim the patent before filing the full application.

The provisional application only lasts for 12 months, which is what has been deemed as an appropriate balance between giving provisional protection versus not restraining other applications for too long. The provisional application will require at a minimum the cover form, the fee form, and the data form. The USPTO offers all these as standardized forms on their website.

The USPTO's cover form at the top includes a mail number. This mail number should only be used if you are opting to file by paper instead of electronically. The rest of the cover form will require various logistical information. The inventor section will require the following:

  • A certification that the applicant is the inventor.
  • The inventor's first and last name or business name.
  • Where the inventor is located.
  • The inventor's country code for residence.
  • The same information for additional inventors, if applicable.

It's important to fill out the cover form's inventor section carefully, as that is the primary logistical information for who owns the patent. Be sure to carefully and completely fill out the inventor section.

Invention Description

The next part of the provisional application cover sheet will require you to write out your invention and include enough pictures to allow the examiner to have a relatively strong understanding of the invention. Even though the application is provisional, the description still needs to be relatively detailed and thorough. Ideally, it should be in-depth enough to allow replication of the invention.

You will also need to create a name for your invention and include it on the cover form. The invention name must be 500 characters or less. The cover sheet will also require you to list your contact information. The contact information should include your address, phone number, and email address. Remember that there can only be one designated point of contact for the application. You can and should also include instructions for who specifically will be responsible for contact, particularly if you are a business with multiple people.

For inventions created under the direction or supervision of a federal agency, you should also include the proper governmental contact information as well. The last part of the cover sheet is just a checklist to make sure everything has been filled out and included. If you are filing the form electronically, you will need to turn the entire application into a PDF document. If you are mailing the application, you will just need to print it out.

Filing Fee

Remember to include your filing fee and designate on the form how you will be paying it. The filing fee will vary depending on the kind of inventor you are, such as small business or a larger organization. Finally, fill out the proper box and include your payment. The filing fee can be calculated by referring to the transmittal form. For example, the fee for a utility patent application is currently $190, as long as the applicant is considered a "small entity."

An individual applicant will qualify as a small entity if they haven't sold the rights or attempted to license the invention. A business will need to meet the same standard as long as they employ no more than 500 employees. Nonprofit organizations may qualify as long as they have met the appropriate legal guidelines for acquiring nonprofit status and they haven't sold or licensed any patent rights.

Additional Steps

The second page of the Provisional Patent Application addresses U.S. government involvement in the invention. Specifically, whether the U.S. government may claim the invention because it was made by one of the agencies of the U.S. government or under contract with a U.S. government agency.

The last field on the Cover Sheet is for the electronic legal signature. As the signatory is not required to be one of the inventors, identifying information is required. It's important to note that the signature needs to be in a specific format, so please make sure to follow the directions carefully. Additional information includes the:

  • Current date
  • Last name and first name of the signatory
  • Registration number of the patent practitioner

The application and filing fee can be submitted by clicking on the "Patents" button on the homepage of the USPTO website. In order to finalize the submission of the application, make sure to follow the on-screen directions. Paper applications may be submitted by mailing the application to:

  • Commissioner for Patents, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450

The USPTO will designate the application tracking number and filing date.

Online applicants may wish to double check the submission of the application by downloading and reviewing them. If issues are found, the applicant may delete the application and resubmit an updated version by visiting the Attach Documents tab. Once the fee has been paid, the applicant may visit the download link, just to the right of the submission button, in order to view the:

  • Filing receipt
  • Submitted documents
  • Application number
  • Confirmation number

A few weeks later the inventor/applicant will receive a paper receipt in the mail.

Why Is Filing a Provisional Patent Application Important?

Filing a provisional patent application gives you one full year from your filing date to submit the non-provisional patent application. It's a useful placeholder for fleshing out your official application and coming up with the funds needed to pay for the patent.

The provisional patent application should include everything a non-provisional application does except the "Claims" section. This defines the scope of the patent's protection. If you're hiring a patent attorney to take care of the entire process, the provisional patent application should take about 80 percent of the time it takes to prepare the non-provisional application.

To save money, many inventors choose to file their own provisional patent application. If they do want legal advice later, they can pay an attorney for filing the more important non-provisional patent application.

When filing a provisional patent application, you have three options:

  1. Self-draft the application yourself.
  2. Hire a cheap service to do it for you.
  3. Hire a patent attorney.

Since hiring a patent lawyer is the more expensive option, you may consider an affordable patent service. Know, however, that these services are usually too good to be true. Cheap patent services sometimes prey on inventors and offer big promises that they can't deliver on.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Provisional Patent

Not every invention needs a provisional patent application. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages and think about your industry to make your decision.

Advantages

  • Receive an early effective date for the patent on your invention.
  • Receive an extra 12 months to get your full patent application together.
  • Pay less because you don't need to include all the claims about your invention.
  • You may get the first patent in a highly competitive field.

Disadvantages

  • You'll pay more when you file a non-provisional patent application if you don't include all the claims in the provisional application.
  • The provisional patent application may be unnecessary if no one else wants to patent the same idea.
  • Provisional patent applications can take a lot of time if you supply as much information as a non-provisional application.

Common Mistakes

You should never file a provisional patent application too early. The provisional patent application is only good for one year. After a year, it expires and can never be renewed. Unless you've already submitted the non-provisional patent application to get the patent process started, your invention is no longer protected.

You should also watch out for misleading information online. Certain sources claim they can file your patent application for a couple hundred bucks. These claims refer to the provisional patent application, not the official non-provisional patent application. Unless you just want to have something on file that protects your invention, you shouldn't pay attention to these claims.

Provisional patent applications are kept private and are never made public unless in rare circumstances. Don't be afraid to include as much detail as possible. The provisional application is simple. It should include a comprehensive description, a cover sheet, and the names and contact information of the inventor or inventors. Also, include the contact information of your lawyer and any government agencies that have property interests in the application.

If you forget to include certain information on the provisional patent application, you can file a new one. Just keep in mind that each one will cost an extra filing fee. When you're on a budget but still need to protect your invention, self-drafting the provisional patent application may be your only option.

If you need help with filing your patent, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.