How to file a provisional patent

This page will show you how to file a provisional patent.  At this point you should be sure that a provisional patent application is right for you.  If you are still unsure about provisional patents, please read all the posts about provisional patents.  how to file a provisional patent

As I mentioned in previous posts, the required parts of a provisional patent application are:

  • A coversheet that lists names of the inventors, their address (city and state only) and details about the application
  • A written description of the invention (this is called the “Specification”)
  • Drawings or figures necessary to show your invention (does not have to be formal or fancy drawings)
  • A payment of the filing fee (currently $125 for most inventors)

Before we begin, we should determine the scope of our invention.  We do this by writing patent claims.

How to file a provisional patent - The Patent claims

Patent claims are the part of a patent which defines the scope of coverage that that patent covers.  For example, you could have a patent which shows 10 different things but the patent may only claim 1 item so that patent only protects that 1 item.  Many people do not file claims in a provisional patent as they are not required.  My personal habit is to include at least one fair claim which fairly defines your invention.  The reason and strategy for that are beyond the scope of this guide and are disputed within the patent community.

What is a "fair claim"?  The easiest way to write a fair claim (at least for me) is to try and define what the unique parts of your invention are and to put them into a list.  For example, if I was trying to protect a new computer keyboard that had round buttons instead of square buttons my claim would be something like this:

I claim:

  1.  A keyboard for a computer or mobile electronic device which consists of round input keys.

Now that I have my claim written which covers the unique part of my invention.  I want to make sure that I define each of the unique terms in my claim (underlined words above) in the “Detailed Description” section of my patent application.  I want to give a clear definition of each of these terms and provide some examples of each of them.   It would also be wise to include these items in my figures showing an example of what my invention looks like.

How to file a provisional patent - The Figures

The next thing I like to work on is my drawing or figure that best shows what my invention is.  If your invention is a new device, you would draw a clear and simple view of your device showing the unique parts of it.  If your idea is a software process, you would make a flow chart showing the steps the software program must take.  If you decide to later file a non-provisional patent, you will most likely have to hire a patent draftsman to create proper figures for you since the patent office has very strict rules about them.  However, provisional patents do not need formal drawings so you can get by (for now) with creating them yourself.

Once you create your figure(s), save them as a pdf file or convert them to a pdf file because that is the file type that the patent office will accept.  I like to use the free tool called PrimoPdf which lets me select the Print option in Microsoft Word and choose the printer name “PrimoPDF” and then  when you hit the print button it will convert your file to a pdf that works well with the patent office system.  You can search for PrimoPDF on google to find this free tool.

How to file a provisional patent - The Specification

The specification is a written description of your invention.  It generally has several sections such as;

  • Title
  • List of Inventors
  • Government support statement
  • Background
  • Brief Summary of the Invention
  • Brief Description of the Drawings
  • Detailed Description of the Invention
  • References
  • Claims
  • Abstract

My advice is to review similar patents which have already been issued that are closely related to your invention.  You should have saved these when you were doing your patent search.  DO NOT COPY them but you can use their layout and terminology as a guide to write your specification.   I also have a free template which I would be happy to send to you.

The most important thing you need to worry about here is that you should be describing in detail how to make and use your invention.  Describe how it works and what each piece does.  You must give every detail to the patent office and do not leave anything out.  If you made a prototype, you should list specific manufacturer part numbers for each piece you used.  You need to convince the patent office that you know how to make your invention and that it’s more than just an idea.

Once you write your specification save it as a pdf file or convert it to a pdf file because that is the file type that the patent office will accept.  I like to use the tool called PrimoPdf (choose the free version) which lets me select the Print option in Microsoft Word and choose the printer named “PrimoPDF” and then  when you hit the print button it will convert your file to a pdf that works well with the patent office system.

Putting it all together

You are almost done!   You should now have 2 pdf files:

  1. A good specification that describes your invention with at least one claim at the end and saved as one pdf file called "specification.pdf"
  2. Figure(s) saved as a second pdf file called "drawings.pdf"

You must also create your Provisional Patent Cover Sheet or Transmittal Letter

  1. You can create a provisional application cover sheet here and save or print that out as a third pdf file called "transmittal.pdf"

This is a lot of work and may be difficult to follow.  I have tried to create easy to understand, step-by-step video guides showing you how to get through each of these steps with some helpful tips and tricks.  Please visit my services page for more details.


Next reading:  Filing a provisional patent application online

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