There are not many differences between the look and content of a non-provisional patent application and a provisional patent application.  In a general sense,  they are both a form of utility patents used to protect a new invention such a new machine, method, or tool (ie: a widget).   The biggest difference between the two types of patent applications is that a provisional patent application will eventually die (go abandon) 12 months from the the date you file it while the non provisional patent application can eventually turn into an issued patent with a patent number if you can get the patent examiner to agree to your claims and if you pay an additional fee called an “issue fee”.  Usually people will file a provisional patent application first and then 12 months later file a non-provisional which is able to piggy-back onto the earlier filed provisional patent.

Similarities of a non provisional patent application and a provisional patent application include:

  • Both are forms of a utility patent application which means they serve a usefulness such as a new tool, machine, or method
  • Both must have a complete and accurate description of your invention and teach exactly how to make and use the invention
  • Both can be filed online at the UPSTO website with a fee and give you a “Patent Pending” status
Some major differences between a non provisional patent application and a provisional patent application are:
  • Provisional patent applications cannot issue as a granted patent.  They are only used as a temporary placeholder and they die out after 1-year
  • A non provisional patent application can eventually become an issued patent
  • Provisional patent applications do not need any claims
  • A Non provisional patent application require at least one claim
  • Provisional patent  applications do not need proper formatting or fancy drawings making them easier and less expensive to prepare
  • A Non provisional patent application must be in the proper USPTO format and include formal drawings
  • Non-provisional patents require a formal statement by the inventor called a declaration while provisional patent applications do not
  • Provisional patent application will not publish and remain secret while non provisional patent applications will  publish in about 18 months from your filing date

So how do you choose which applicaiton type is best for you?  My opinion is that this should be a business strategy decision rather than solely a legal decision.  You should have a good understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of both types of applicaitons before you spend time and money filing your own patent.

Feel free to contact me if you have general quesitons about this.

Suggested Next Reading:  How to Search Provisional Patents

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Free USPTO Provisional Patent Template

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