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How to File a Provisional Patent Application: A Step-by-Step Guide


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If you’ve invented something new and exciting, you should protect your idea so no one else can claim it as their own. One way to do this is by filing a provisional patent application. This is a simple and cost-effective way to secure protection for your invention for a year while you work on refining it and preparing for a complete patent application. This blog will explain a provisional patent and why you need one. We will also walk you through filing a provisional patent application using LegalZoom.

What is a Provisional Patent?

A provisional patent is a temporary patent that protects your invention for 12 months. It’s cheaper and faster to get than a complete patent. The provisional patent lets you use the term “patent pending” for your invention, which can help show potential investors or partners that you are serious about protecting your idea.

Why You Might Need a Provisional Patent

  • Cost-Effective Protection

Filing a provisional patent is much cheaper than filing a complete patent. This gives you a year to work on your invention without spending much money upfront.

  • Time to Improve Your Invention

The 12-month period allows you to make improvements and modifications to your invention before filing for a complete patent.

  •  Securing a Priority Date

The date you file your provisional patent becomes your priority date. If someone else files a similar invention after your priority date, you have a legal claim to it.

  • Marketing Your Invention as Patent Pending

Saying your invention is “patent pending” can help marketing and attract potential investors or partners.


Steps to File a Provisional Patent Application Using LegalZoom

LegalZoom is an online platform that helps you with various legal processes, including filing a provisional patent application. Here are the steps involved:

  • Describe Your Invention

LegalZoom will ask you for a brief description of your invention. This is a general overview of what your invention is and what it does. Make sure to be clear and concise in your description.

  • Select Patent Information

You will need to answer questions about your investion, such as whether it has been publicly used, offered for sale, patented anywhere in the world, or described in a printed publication. This information is crucial for ensuring your invention is eligible for a provisional patent.

  • Choose the Reason for Patent Protection 

You should file a provisional patent application for various reasons. Some common reasons include:

    • Getting ahead of your competitors.
    • Promoting your invention as patent pending.
    • Securing a priority filing date.
  • Enter Inventorship Information 

You will need to provide information about your invention’s investor(s). This includes names and contact details. It’s essential to list all investors to avoid legal issues later correctly.

  • Select the Type of Invention

These are two main types of patents:

    • Utility Patents: These protect how an invention works.
    • Design Patents: These protect how a product looks.

Most provisional patents are for utility patents, but you should choose the type that best fits your invention.

  • Describe Your Invention in Detail 

This step involves providing a detailed description of your invention. You need to include:

    • Purpose: What is your invention used for?
    • Functionality: How your invention works?
    • Construction: How your invention is made?

Make sure to include enough detail so that someone skilled in the field can understand and recreate your invention.

  • Review and Submit Your Application

Once you have completed all the steps, you can review your application. Make sure all information is correct and complete. After reviewing, you can submit your application to LegalZoom. They will then file your provisional patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).



Filing a provisional patent application is a smart first step in protecting your invention. It’s a cost-effective way to secure a priority date and gives you time to improve your invention before committing to the expense of a full patent. LegalZoom can simplify the process, guiding you through each step and ensuring your application is correctly filed.

By following the steps outlined above, you can confidently file your provisional patent application and start working towards securing a full patent. Remember, the key to a successful patent application is a clear and detailed description of your invention, so take the time to document your idea thoroughly.

FAQs about Provisional Patents

  • Why Would You File a Provisional Patent?

    Filing a provisional patent gives you the benefit of a priority date and a period to develop your invention further before filing for a complete patent. It’s also a cost-effective way to start protecting your idea.

  • What Information Do You Need to Include in Your Application?

    You need to include a detailed description of your invention, including its purpose, how it works, and how it’s made. You must also provide information about the inventors and answer questions about the invention’s prior use or publication.

  • How Long Do You Have to Work on Your Invention?

    A provisional patent protects your invention for 12 months. During this time, you can refine and improve your invention before filing for a complete patent. Your provisional patent will expire if you file a complete patent within this period and remain active.

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