Steps to choose between a provision and non-provisional patent

Written By Steps To Faculty Published October 14th, 2010

As an inventor you will probably have to determine how to patent your idea. Do you use a provisional patent application or a non-provisional patent application. Non-provisional patent application are the only accepted type if you have a design of an invention that you need patented. If you have other types of inventions, however, you will still have to decide. More and more inventors are using the provisional patent application given the complexity of the non-provisional patent application and the length of time the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) takes to review your application (over a year). Here are some other facts you should know before you decide.

Step 1 Know the facts

A provisional patent application is useful if you require an inexpensive first time filing in America. The application is valid for 12 months and is a precursor to a non-provisional patent application. A provisional patent holds your invention idea for a year until you have time to file a non-provisional patent application. On the other hand, The United States Patent and Trademark Office does guarantee a patent will be issued if you file a non-provisional patent application. Filing such an application only excludes other from selling your idea and manufacturing your invention until the USPTO comes to a decision about granting you a patent. This can take years. The provisional patent application protects your invention up to a year only. It is a good first step if you are low on cash and unsure of the marketability of your invention idea and want to preserve your idea for 12 months.

Step 2 Get an expert

Invention Home is the leader in providing invention services and offers a free evaluation of the marketability of your invention. Visit and ask a representative to contact you at a convenient time. He or she will first review your invention idea based on the confidential application that you submit to them. If the rep evaluates your invention positively then they will advise you on the correct direction to take as to whether a provisional or non-provisional application is best.

Step 3 Remember there is no substitute

If you feel that a provisional patent application is the best route to go, remember that is does not replace a non-provisional patent application. To receive eventual full patent protection the only route to take is to file a non-provisional patent application. The provisional application is a first step to safeguard yourself until the USPTO reviews your application thoroughly.

Step 4 Establish a filing date

By filing the non-provisional patent application, also known as the utility patent application, is the only type of patent application that establishes a filing date and is the beginning of the USPTO’s review of your invention idea. When you file the provisional patent application, you file a date until you file a non-provisional application within the 12 month period, in which the filing date reverts to the original filing date of the provisional patent.

Step 5 Test the waters

Have you ever noticed that many products on the market have a patent pending mark on the packaging. This is the sign of a provisional patent. Many companies use a provisional patent so that they have 12 months to find a manufacturer to cover the cost of patenting the idea or getting to market and testing the consumer waters before committing to a non-provisional patent application. You can even go to the Small Business Administration ( or to Hoover’s ( to find companies that can help you find the right niche for your invention idea. Changes can be made to your invention if a provisional patent application is filed. Generally non-provisional applications are permanent once filed.

Remember to evaluate your specific situation as an inventor. Based on the information above, you should be able to determine the right course of action. Please visit for more great business advice.

Roger Due

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