A patent will last for 20 years from the date you file it.   This is called "Patent Term".  The catch is, sometimes it may take 2-5 years to get through the patent examination process so by the time your patent actually issues, you may only have 15 to 18 years of patent life left.  The good news is that if there was a major delay that was not your fault (i.e. the patent office took too long), then, you can get some of that patent term back.  This is called patent term adjustment or PTA.

How does a provisional patent application affect patent term?

A provisional patent application is only active for 12 months.  However, that 12 month period does not "start the clock" for your patent term calculations.  Therefore, a provisional patent application essentially gives you 21 years of patent coverage.  Just another advantage of filing a provisional patent application.

How long does a patent last? was last modified: February 23rd, 2013 by Brad Fach
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Free USPTO Provisional Patent Template

My personal provisional patent template used to file over 200 patent applications with the USPTO