Provisional Patent Outline

A provisional patent application (PPA) offers a low cost way to reserve protection of an invention idea for one year.

With a provisional patent application in place you can say "patent pending" and maintain your claim of patent priority when presenting your invention idea to investors, designers, manufacturers and possible licensees. With respect to United States law, a provisional patent application can be filed by a citizen of any country. However, some countries, like China, require inventors to obtain a foreign filing license for all inventions completed in their country before seeking patent protection elsewhere.


  1. A PPA is not reviewed by an examiner. Beyond the filing forms and format, there is no requirement for what you submit.
  2. The PPA does not protect your invention. It enables you to say "patent pending" which means that you may get an issued patent in the future.
  3. Only issued patents can be enforced.
  4. The PPA starts a one year clock ticking for filing international patents too.
  5. Patents are complicated.

    Professional patent agents or attorneys will help you avoid pitfalls in the patent process. But if you take your time and get help from a book like Patent it Yourself, you can absolutely file a provisional patent application on your own. Most inventors qualify as micro-entities and can file for just $60 (as of September, 2023). However, patents are complicated and if you ever end up with an issued patent that pays you good royalties and that patent is being tested in a lawsuit, you'll sleep better if everything has been professionally done.


    Helpful Information:

    Provisional Patent Application Outline



    • Field of the Invention:
    • One sentence statement of what your invention is
    • Do not discuss details of your invention in this section


    • Provide at least two goals or objectives of your invention. Each one should be only one sentence.

    (photographs, screen shots, sketches are ok for provisional)

    • Number each image as a Figure such as Figure 1, Figure 2...
    • Briefly describe each image.
    • Use flowcharts for software and other processes.
    • Put numbers on the the parts/elements shown in the Figures.
    • Example of formal patent drawings.

    (detail is the word to keep in mind)

    • Describe your invention here.
    • Do not refer to prior art.
    • Provide as much detail as you can. Discuss each part and how it fits and interacts with the other parts
    • Describe the best way to make your invention
    • Describe other ways of making your invention
    • Describe ways of using your invention.
    • Describe each Figure and numbered part in your images in detail.
    • Describe alternative parts that might substitute for the ones shown in your images.
    • Describe the process of your invention works in detail with step by step of what a user does and what the invention does.
    • You cannot add details when you convert to a non-provisional application and details are needed for a strong patent.


    • Some attorneys recommend having at least one claim in a provisional application. Others say it is not necessary.
    • Patent claims are where the rubber meets the road - the specific things your patent protects.
    • Writing a good claim is hard.
    • The claim you write here does not affect your non-provisional application. It can be broad and poorly written.


    • This is not needed for a provisional application but is worth attempting.
    • One paragraph summary of your invention in 150 words.

    USPTO Info and Links:

    • Provisional Application for Patent
    • File Online Using EFS-Web: The provisional application can be filed electronically with EFS-Web. Prepare documents PDF, attach the documents, validate that the PDF documents will be compatible with USPTO systems, submit the documents, and pay fees. When fillable EFS-Web forms are used, the data entered into the forms is automatically loaded into USPTO information systems. Further information is available at

    Details on Provisional Applications from the USPTO:


    • (1) AUTHORIZATION.—A provisional application for patent shall be made or authorized to be made by the inventor, except as otherwise provided in this title, in writing to the Director. Such application shall include—
    • (2) CLAIM.—A claim, as required by subsections (b) through (e) of section 112, shall not be required in a provisional application.
    • (3) FEE.—The application shall be accompanied by the fee required by law. The fee may be submitted after the filing date of the application, within such period and under such conditions, including the payment of a surcharge, as may be prescribed by the Director. Upon failure to submit the fee within such prescribed period, the application shall be regarded as abandoned.
    • (4) FILING DATE.—The filing date of a provisional application shall be the date on which a specification, with or without claims, is received in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
    • (5) ABANDONMENT.—Notwithstanding the absence of a claim, upon timely request and as prescribed by the Director, a provisional application may be treated as an application filed under subsection (a). Subject to section 119(e)(3), if no such request is made, the provisional application shall be regarded as abandoned 12 months after the filing date of such application and shall not be subject to revival after such 12-month period.
    • (6) OTHER BASIS FOR PROVISIONAL APPLICATION.—Subject to all the conditions in this subsection and section 119(e) of this title, and as prescribed by the Director, an application for patent filed under subsection (a) may be treated as a provisional application for patent.
    • (7) NO RIGHT OF PRIORITY OR BENEFIT OF EARLIEST FILING DATE.—A provisional application shall not be entitled to the right of priority of any other application under section 119, 365(a), or 386(a) or to the benefit of an earlier filing date in the United States under section 120, 121, 365(c), or 386(c).
    • (8) APPLICABLE PROVISIONS.—The provisions of this title relating to applications for patent shall apply to provisional applications for patent, except as otherwise provided, and except that provisional applications for patent shall not be subject to sections 131 and 135.

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