How to Patent an Idea in 3-Steps with a Provisional Patent Application

How to Patent an idea with a provisional patent application.  Do you have a great idea and are worried someone will steal it or beat you to the marketplace?  In many cases filing a provisional patent application should be your first step to protect your new invention, even before you tell your idea to friends or investors because you can actually block yourself from getting a patent by disclosing your invention publicly before you file (more on this later).


3 Steps to Patent an Idea:

how-to-patent-an-idea timeline

How to Patent an Idea - Step 1 Do a patent Search

Spend a few hours doing a good search for patents that are related to your idea.  The patent search is important for three reasons:

  1. It will tell you if someone else has already invented your idea (if they have, you are not eligible for a patent because if the patent office can find evidence from anywhere around the world that your invention already exists your patent will be denied).
  2. A patent search will tell you who is already working in this space.  You can find companies that are doing work in your area and use them as potential investors or licensees of your patent.
  3. You can use already issued patents that are related to your invention as a guide or template to write your own patent application.

(CAUTION:  A patent search should also include non-patents such as items shown on Youtube, Amazon, ETSY, etc.   The reason for this is because if you are not the first person to invent a product, you cannot get a patent on it.  Many times people approach me to patent their idea and I spend about 5 minutes searching Google to see that someone else had already done the same thing - essentially blocking them from getting a patent)

A patent search can be conducted online at the USPTO website, or at places like Google patents.  I wrote a complete guide with videos showing you how to do this.  You can read more on my How to Search Patents Page or watch this introduction video:



Step 2 - Write Your Patent Application

This is the hardest and most time consuming step.  In order to get a valid patent, you have to describe in detail to the patent office exactly how to make and use your invention.  You should include several figures or drawings showing what your invention looks like.  If your idea is for a new software process, than your figures will be a flow chart showing each step of the process.  When creating your figures, make sure to label each key feature of your invention with a number.  You will then use those numbers when you write your detailed description of your invention in your patent specification.   The goal of your patent application should be to create a technical description of how to make and use your invention.  This is not a marketing piece or business plan so go easy on the market and business information and focus on technical details.  Patents and patent applications are published online so don't include any business secrets or strategies in your patent application.  Tip: Sign up for my patent filing newsletter and get instant access to my free patent application template which you can use to patent an idea. Sign up here:




patent an idea frustratedDon't get frustrated and don't give up

I see a lot of people get frustrated and give up at this point.  Don't!  Your provisional patent application is called a "provisional" for a reason.  It does not have to be perfect and you don't have to use fancy words or drawings or try to sound like a patent attorney when you are writing it.  The most important thing is that you are being detailed and including enough description so that a stranger could read your patent application and look at your figures and be able to re-create your invention without a lot of guess work or tinkering.  If you can do that, than you can file a good provisional patent application.


Step 3 - File Online at the Website

Once you have your patent drawings and your detailed description (called the "specification") created,  you then save these files as pdf documents and upload them to the patent office website at  This is the easiest step of the entire process and should not take you more than 5 minutes.  I wrote a free guide on how to do this and how to patent an idea available here: Filing Provisional Patent.

get help with your patent

The steps above are the three basic ones that you should follow but each one of these steps can become very complicated.  I have tried to make an easy to follow guide with videos to help you through the process.   To learn more about my video guide, please visit my services page.



How to Patent an Idea using a Provisional Patent Application?

Provisional patent applications are an ideal way to give you early protection on an invention because they are cheap ($70 for most inventors) and easy to file and they allow you to use the term "Patent Pending".  The provisional patent application is ideal for anyone wondering how to patent an idea because the provisional patent application offers some patent protection in the United States and can eventually turn into a full patent in most of the important countries around the world.

The benefits of a provisional patent application include:

  1. Low upfront cost ($70 for most inventors)
  2. Allows you to use the term "Patent Pending" on your idea
  3. Can eventually turn into an issued patent in most countries around the world (if done properly)

The downside of a provisional patent application is that it only last for 12 months, essentially acting as a "placeholder".  Once that 12 month period is up, you will either abandon your application or file the next level of patent application called a non-provisional patent application.  This timeline may help:

How to Patent an Idea


Ready to get started?  Download my free patent application template and follow my newsletter.   Provisional Patent Template 

By Brad Fach

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