Provisional Patent Template: What Is It?

A provisional patent template is an outline you can use to complete your provisional patent application correctly. When a provisional patent application is done poorly, it could result in your invention being rejected at the Patent Office. A well-written template will help you cover all your bases when starting the patent process, even without the help of a lawyer.

A template gives you a solid place to start, and it can essentially guide you toward researching all the necessary information. Since the USPTO doesn't offer a standard form or template for submitting provisional patent applications, you can use your preferred method as long as it meets USPTO patent submission standards.

Why Is a Provisional Patent Template Important?

A provisional patent template, like the one offered on Stanford University's website, helps you organize your thoughts. There are many types of provisional patent templates available online, so be sure to do your research to find the one that works best for you.

A self-drafted provisional patent application should include:

  • The inventor's name
  • The title of the invention — this should be short and specific
  • Any cross-references to related applications
  • The field of invention
  • A detailed description or summary of the invention — it's better to be wordy about the invention than to leave out any details
  • Background information and prior art
  • Drawings and a list of figures
  • Brief descriptions of the drawings
  • At least one example of the invention's intended use

You will also need to download the Provisional Application for Patent Cover Sheet form from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Fill out this form in detail, including your payment method and invention information.

Reasons to Consider Using a Provisional Patent Template

The right provisional patent template can help you draft a professional patent application and speed up the approval process. You should always check first with leading research universities for any templates they might have. Other than Stanford University's template, MIT offers additional resources, such as how to make patent drawings.

While it can be tempting to use just any free template available online, your best bet is to go with one offered by a research university. That's because most free templates do not include any extra help on how to write your application, which could lead to mistakes.

If in doubt, review USPTO's website thoroughly. USPTO offers a broad range of topics related to the patent process, including how the information should be presented, what the drawings and specifics should look like, and other important details.

You'll also want to read up on basic patent and intellectual property information before beginning the process. Princeton, for instance, offers a great primer on patents.

You may also want to watch provisional patent video courses and read expert blogs on the subject, just to give you a better understanding of the process.

Reasons to Consider Not Using a Provisional Patent Template

Free provisional patent templates are useful, but since they don't always list formal requirements about the patent process, it's easy to make mistakes. Unless you do your own research into the patent process, going by the template alone will only make you look like an amateur.

For example, if you don't want to explain exactly how a component of your invention works because you want to keep it a secret, that part of the invention can't be patented. If an idea is worth all the time, effort, and money spent on patenting it, you want to do it right, and relying on a template can often be your downfall.

While some individuals can successfully navigate online patent application templates and do all the required research, most are better off hiring patent lawyers. A professional patent lawyer is the best source for filing the patent correctly and protecting your business.

What Could Happen When You Use a Provisional Patent Template vs. When You Don't?

The difference between using a template or not really depends on how you approach the process.

With a provisional patent template, you can learn more about the patent application process. That's because you're doing more research on your own to make sure you're filling out the application correctly. Familiarizing yourself with the process is a smart approach no matter how you intend to file.

When you don't use a provisional patent template, your application could be left with gaping holes and insufficient information. As a result, your application will be rejected and you will have to start the process all over again.

However, if you decide to not use a template and instead hire a patent lawyer to do the work for you, you're much better off than either option.

Common Mistakes When Using a Provisional Patent Template

You've probably seen late-night TV commercials promising to file your patent application for you at a low cost. You may have even considered online sources that offer do-it-yourself patent applications.

While this may sound like a good idea, you're not exactly getting the most bang for your buck. In these cases, the source is only offering to file your provisional patent application. The provisional patent application is the first step in the patent process, but it's very different from the nonprovisional patent application.

The nonprovisional patent application is what cements your patent. Filling out your own provisional patent application is less complicated, but it's only good for one year after the filing date. It's not actually examined by the Patent Office, which is why you can often complete the provisional patent application yourself using a template.

Problems start to arise during the nonprovisional patent application stage, which is when legal advice will help. The provisional patent only gives you a priority date by which the full nonprovisional patent application is due. If you have hired a patent lawyer, he or she will get the nonprovisional application underway as soon as possible.

In most cases, even filing a provisional patent application is a mistake unless there are special circumstances. Filing a provisional patent application and then the nonprovisional patent application within a year will cost more than simply filing the nonprovisional application.

A good provisional patent should look like a nonprovisional patent with one exception: The claims section isn't required. In fact, filling out the claims section is not recommended if you're filling out the application yourself. Instead of just looking to provisional patents as models, you should study patents that have actually been issued to get a better idea of what the Patent Office expects.

If you want to file a provisional application on your own, it's best to have a patent lawyer in mind who can start the nonprovisional process once you send in the provisional application.

Steps to Finding Sample Provisional Patent Applications

When searching for helpful templates, it's nice to be able to review existing patent applications that have already gone through the approval process or are pending.

  1. Research leading patent filers in your industry.
  2. Use free patent databases like USPTO to search for the patents filed in your industry. Do this by entering relevant keywords on Public PAIR, Google Patents, or another database.
  3. Find patents claiming priority in earlier provisional patent applications.
  4. Get a priority patent document from Public PAIR, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), or the USPTO website.
  5. Compare provisional applications.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I need to file a provisional patent application?

In short, no. The provisional patent application is not as important as the nonprovisional application. Since the provisional patent application is not as complex, though, many people can fill out and submit it on their own without legal help. Do not submit a provisional patent application unless you need a priority date by which to file your nonprovisional.

  • Can I use any provisional patent template?

While any template will do as long as it contains the required information, you're better off using a template from a respected university or institution.

  • Do I need to hire a lawyer to file my provisional patent application?

No. You can fill out your provisional patent application and submit it on your own, but this takes a lot of research. Hiring a patent lawyer may be costly, but it makes sure your invention is treated right every step of the way.

  • Do I need to include drawings in my provisional patent application?

Yes. It's a common misconception that you shouldn't include drawings in a provisional patent application. In fact, many non-attorney websites and services suggest drawings are not required at this stage, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

While provisional patent applications are less formal than nonprovisional ones, your disclosure must still be as complete as possible if you want to secure a useful priority date. As such, if drawings are necessary to understanding your invention, be sure to include them in the provisional application.

It's also acceptable to include photographs in your provisional patent application, even though regular utility patent applications aren't allowed to include them. Most lawyers recommend including marked up drawings as stand-ins for formally prepared drawings. Once the provisional application is converted to a nonprovisional applications, you will need to submit formal illustrations.

If you need help with a provisional patent template, you can post your question or concern 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, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.