How to file a provisional patent application

How to File a Provisional Patent Application in 13 Steps

Ok – so at this point you’ve hopefully figured out whether your idea is an invention or if it’s still in the idea stage? You’ve also hired a Patent Attorney or done the homework yourself to confirm that your idea is patentable? 

Correct? 

If so, you are ready to learn how to file a patent application! Keep reading!

If not, and you can’t undeniably answer the question, can I patent my idea, please stop right now and read through my blog article: How to Patent an Idea in 13 Steps.

Yes, you… please go back and read it over!

I would hate for you to spend all this time and money filing your application only to learn your idea is not patentable.

Blog Article: How to Patent an Idea in 13 Steps

Seriously, doing the hard work to confirm whether your invention is eligible, patentable, and marketable, is MEGA important.

I can’t stress this enough. Ok – I’ve said my piece. Back to this article – but just in case you missed it, here is the link again, believe me – you’ll thank me later!

Ok now let’s get to it! Let’s roll up our sleeves. And if you don’t have sleeves, crack your knuckles or something- it’s time to learn how to file a patent application.


Table of Contents: How to File Your Provisional Patent Application in 13-Steps

First, I will go through exactly what you need to gather and describe in order to file your patent application. Then, in the final step (Step 13), I’ll go over how to properly submit the documents, so make sure you read all the way through!

  1.  Invention Category & Title
  2. What Is Your General Description?
  3. What Is the Market Need?
  4. Basic Version of your Invention
  5. Description of Alternative Embodiments
  6. Full Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments
  7.  Competitive Advantage
  8. Uniqueness: What your Invention Does Differently
  9. Uniqueness: How your Invention Does it Differently
  10.  Figures/Drawings
  11. Description of Figures
  12.  Documents Needed to File
  13.  E-Filing with the USPTO

Video Playlist on How to File Your Provisional Patent Application

Infographic showing you the overall process of filing a provisional or utility patent application.

How to patent your idea flowchart

 

Additional infographic & guide on the process of obtaining a provisional or utility patent available on the USPTO website by clicking here! 


Step 1 – How To File a Provisional Patent Application: Develop Your Invention Category & Title

Do not take this step lightly! This will determine how you describe your invention to assure you’ve covered all aspects properly.

Reminder: The main goal of a provisional patent application is to properly SET UP the more comprehensive full nonprovisional patent application.

The idea is that you provide all of the colors on an artist’s pallet such that when it comes time to write the real application and make claims – you have all the possibilities and opportunities to have a strong, broad claim set.

Selecting the correct CATEGORY will allow you to properly select (in the below steps) which template paragraphs to follow.

If you need help with this, feel free to book a free consultation by clicking here! 

Developing Your Invention Category:

There are 4 patentable categories under the 34 USC 101. Below I have listed examples for each.

Type 1: Machine

  • Definition: This is a concrete thing, something you can touch and feel and can consist of a certain device or combination of devices.
  • Examples: Drilling Auger, Fuel Injection System, Wrench, Electric Circuits, etc.

Type 2: Manufacture

  • Definition: Something you can touch and feel, but its uniqueness comes not from discrete devices, but from the process of manufacturing, meaning they were produced from raw or prepared materials giving materials new forms, qualities, properties, or combinations.
  • Examples: Silicon wafers, batteries, propeller blade, printing, etc.

Type 3: Composition of Matter

  • Definition: Also, tangible, but gets its unique properties by the combination of at least two distinct elements or raw materials. This includes chemical or mechanical mixtures and includes gases, fluids, powders, or solids.
  • Examples: Biotechnology, metallurgy, genetically modified organisms, etc.

Type 4: Process

  • Definition: Is a series of actions or steps that taken together will produce a given, unique result or functionality. Process patent applications are the same as “method” patents, it just means that when certain activities are performed in a certain way, it will yield novel results
  • Examples: Software, business methods, games, manufacturing, etc.

Developing Invention’s Title

No, you won’t be stuck with it forever, but it will help to be able to describe your invention in one breath of air – think of it as the start to your elevator pitch.

It’s all in a title right? Ok – while it may be hard right now to come up with a perfect title or name for your product or invention but do your best!

How would you describe your invention if you only had 50 characters (yes, that includes spaces and punctuation)?

Example: Automatic coffee grinder and brewing system (43 characters)

Perfect, now that you have figured out the category and title of your invention you are on your way to filing your patent application.

Step 2 – How To File a Patent Application: What Is Your General Description?

This section is easy – this is your 5-minute pitch. You only need to provide an overview of your invention. It’s should address the sexy and interesting features of your invention.

Explain your invention in one to two paragraphs (250 words max), being sure to hit the structural, mechanical and technological highlights.

The goal of this section is to provide information to someone who is technically capable of understanding, but only casually interested.

Kind of like you would explain to a friend at a birthday or someone you work with.

In other words, this should be an all-inclusive overview of your invention.

Writer’s Block? Confused? 

Don’t worry! I’ve given you some template attorney language to work from – YOU ARE WELCOME! 🙂

Pick a template below that lines up with your invention category that you learned in step # 1.

Afterward, fill in the sentences that can be found with “[ ]” using the tips I provide you with.

4 Free Patentable Category Templates:

Machines – Patentable Category Template:

The present invention is a [DESCRIBE YOUR INVENTION IN ONE PHRASE] which [WHAT YOUR INVENTION DOES]. The core components of the invention are [MAKE LIST OF ALL COMPONENTS – DON’T LEAVE ANY OUT], which, generally speaking, are configured as follows: [TAKE A FEW SENTENCES AND DESCRIBE HOW THE COMPONENTS WORK TOGETHER]. The invention can be used to [WHAT IT RESULTS IN, BENEFITS, ACCOMPLISHES]. Furthermore, it should be noted that [ANYTHING ELSE THAT NEEDS TO BE INCLUDED].

Manufactures – Patentable Category Template: 

The present invention is a product of [HOW THE ARTICLE WAS MANUFACTURED] which [WHAT YOUR INVENTION DOES]. The resulting product has [LIST FUNCTIONAL PROPERTIES] as a result of the manufacturing. The invention can be used to [WHAT IT RESULTS IN, BENEFITS, ACCOMPLISHES]. Furthermore, it should be noted that [ANYTHING ELSE THAT NEEDS TO BE INCLUDED].

Compositions of Matter – Patentable Category Template:

The present invention is a mixture that [BRIEF DESCRIPTION IN ONE PHRASE] which [WHAT YOUR INVENTION DOES]. The composition is comprised of the following [LIST CORE ELEMENTS]. The invention can be used to [WHAT IT RESULTS IN, BENEFITS, ACCOMPLISHES]. Furthermore, it should be noted that [ANYTHING ELSE THAT NEEDS TO BE INCLUDED].

Process – Patentable Category Template: 

The present invention relates to method of [BRIEF DESCRIPTION IN ONE PHRASE], which provides for [INSERT EXPLANATION OF WHAT THE METHOD ALLOWS or ACCOMPLISHES GENERALLY]. In order to carry out this method the following core steps are followed: [INSERT BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF CORE METHOD STEPS]. Ultimately, at the conclusion of these steps [INSERT BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE RESULT]. Furthermore, it should be noted that [ANYTHING ELSE THAT NEEDS TO BE INCLUDED].

Step 3 – How To File a Patent Application: What Is the Market Need?

Many inventors get uber excited about what they’ve created because they LOVE it themselves.

Being enamored by your own invention is great – but you need to know that the marketplace might not always agree.

It is important to ask these questions:

  1. Do enough people want your invention?
  2. Is there enough pain for them to want to quit doing what they are doing now, and use your invention?

To answer these questions, you need to do market research. I talk about this in length in my  How to Patent Your Idea blog post – see “marketability” and the Patent Success Matrix. I’ll save you the soapbox speech here.

Patentability & Marektability Patent Attorney Success Matrix

Assuming the answers to those questions are along the lines of yes, people want my invention, and yes, they either are not being served at all right now – or the current solution is terrible, then we can continue…

Think about the problems your invention solves or addresses.

Here are some questions to think about: 

  1. Is your invention a solution to a problem?
  2. Is your invention an improvement over known solutions?
  3. If your invention is an improvement, how is it better than what already exists?

Explain the need your invention fills by highlighting the key benefits provided by your invention.

Your answer to these questions may overlap with the information you have previously provided.

Nevertheless, answer this question independent of any other answers. If possible, try and say it in a different way.

Below I have provided you with some additional helpful templates when writing your market needs section.

Pick a template below that lines up with your invention category that you learned in step # 1.

Afterward, fill in the sentences that can be found with “[ ]” using the tips I provide you with.

Templates we use when drafting your market need section:

Device/Manufacture/Composition of Matter

It would be desirable to have a/an [INSERT GENERAL CHARACTERIZATION] which/that [INSERT DESIRED CHARACTERISTICS]. Furthermore, it would also be desirable to have a/an [INSERT DESIRED CHARACTERISTICS]. Still further, it would be desirable to have a/an [INSERT DESIRED CHARACTERISTICS]. Therefore, there currently exists a need in the industry for a/an [INSERT WHAT INVENTION DOES].

Process

It would be desirable to have a process for [INSERT GENERAL CHARACTERIZATION] which/that [INSERT DESIRED CHARACTERISTICS OF PROCESS]. Furthermore, it would also be desirable to have a process that [INSERT DESIRED CHARACTERISTICS]. Still further, it would be desirable to have a process for [INSERT DESIRED CHARACTERISTICS]. Therefore, there currently exists a need in the industry for a process that [INSERT WHAT PROCESS DOES].

Step 4 – How To File a Patent Application: Create a Basic Version of Your Invention

Here is where you dig one layer deeper in your description of your invention. As you have already introduced the category, the high-level description, and now explained the market need for your invention – you’re ready to lay out the basic version of your invention.

While you probably are wanting (probably dying) to explain the most complete, decked-out, bells & whistles, beautiful version of your invention, resist the urge!

Here, what’s important is that we lay the groundwork first (we will get to the bells and whistles later).

Your job now is to think of the true core requirements of your invention.

  • What is required in order to make your invention work?
  • What needs to be present in order for your invention to work plus just one distinction over the prior art?

Think…If you stripped off all of the improvements and the modifications, in its most SIMPLE, dumbed-down version – how would you describe it?

That’s all – this section is the most BORING, PLAIN, VANILLA explanation of your invention.

Once again, below I have provided you with some additional helpful templates when writing your market needs section.

Pick a template below that lines up with your invention category that you learned in step # 1.

Afterward, fill in the sentences that can be found with “[ ]” using the tips I provide you with.

Templates when drafting your basic version of your invention: 

Machine

Disclosed is a {INSERT TITLE}, which is made up of the following components {INSERT LIST OF ALL ELEMENTS ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED}. These components are {INSERT EITHER “RELATED” OR “CONNECTED”} as follows {INSERT DESCRIPTION OF GENERIC CONNECTION/RELATION}.

Manufacture

 Disclosed is a {INSERT TITLE}, which is a product or material that is manufactured using [INSERT MANUFACTURING METHOD] that has {INSERT LIST OF ALL FEATURES ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED}. These features are {INSERT EITHER POSITIONED, PLACED, SHAPED} as follows {INSERT DESCRIPTION OF 3D RELATIONSHIP}.

Composition of Matter

Disclosed is a {INSERT TITLE}, which is a mixture of [INSERT ALL ELEMENTS ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED]. These elements when combined as follows {INSERT DESCRIPTION OF GENERIC CONNECTION/RELATION}.

Process

Disclosed is a {INSERT TITLE}, which consists of the following steps {INSERT LIST OF STEPS ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED}.

Step 5 – How To File a Provisional Patent Application: Description of Alternative Embodiments

This is the section of the application where you need to add color, embellishments, and even add eccentric and downright silly versions of your invention.

The key is asking yourself – what’s possible?

In the last section, you went through and described the most basic and dull version of your invention and how it barely performs the desired functionality you need.

Here in this section, you need to fully think about how your invention could accomplish the same goals.

What other materials, patterns, process, communication method, tools, jigs, computer aided functionality could be used to perform your invention in another way EVEN IF IT’S LESS EFFECTIVE?

Don’t get hung up on the fact that some of these alternative embodiments don’t have market potential (in your eyes) and don’t immediately seem to have as much value as your current prototype.

It’s key now to explore what’s possible, and what opportunities are out there that may yet be unexplored.

This will come to fruition by asking people to test the invention and provide feedback. Some of the initial assumptions about what version you think the customers will like, can be proven to be incorrect.

Thus, if you dismiss other versions too early, you could miss out on protecting those versions later when you file the nonprovisional patent application with claims.

Follow the process listed below:

1. Describe the basic structure:

  • For example, if you were describing a chair you might say that it has a seat, four legs connected to the underside of the seat at or near the corners and a back that is connected to the top side of the seat substantially at the edge.

2. After describing the basic structure, define the optional features:

  • The chair could optionally have arms, pads that are placed on the bottom of the legs so that the legs will not scratch hardwood surfaces.
  • Furthermore, the seat could have padding, and be covered with a fabric or material such as leather or vinyl.

Notice what we are trying to accomplish here is to embellish the core invention with as much detail as possible.

It is important for you to spend time considering optional features.

Failure to disclose options will most likely prevent any issued patent from covering them. This may not seem like a big deal, but history has shown that it is critical.

If you are fortunate enough to have invented something of great importance there will be a number of individuals and companies trying to capitalize on the opportunity you have created.

If you dismiss and fail to claim options then you are leaving those to the individuals and/or companies that would seek to file a patent application describing an improved version of your own invention.

Here are more templates on describing the embellishments of your invention:

Machine

The device may also have one or more of the following: {INSERT LIST OF OPTIONAL ELEMENTS/CHARACTERISTICS AND CONNECTION DESCRIPTION}.

Manufacture

The manufacture may also have one or more of the following features: {INSERT LIST OF OPTIONAL ELEMENTS/CHARACTERISTICS}.

Composition of Matter

The composition/mixture may also have one or more of the following elements: {INSERT LIST OF OPTIONAL ELEMENTS/CHARACTERISTICS}.

Process

The method may also include one or more of the following steps: {INSERT LIST OF OPTIONAL STEPS}.

Step 6 – How To File a Provisional Patent Application: Full Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments

You are now being asked to describe the most complete formulation, including any and all options and preferences. Your answer to this question may seem very similar in ways to your answers to Steps 4 and 5, which is exactly what is intended.

You are being asked to combine Steps 4 and 5 to create the single most complete version of your invention.

I call this your Cadillac!

The goal here is to describe the “Cadillac” model. This should be the version of the invention that you think is best, the version you plan to commercialize and feel has the most upside potential.

The best way to describe the “Cadillac” model is to explain it like we used to do when we were kids doing a show-and-tell at school.

You explained everything, no matter how obvious.

Kids do this when they describe things because they have no idea what the person listening knows, and to them it is new and interesting, so they explain everything with tremendous detail (whether you want to hear it or not).

This is your baby – use your passion to drive your writing and make this the most detailed exposition of your invention you’ve ever given.

Share this with someone like you were teaching them how to make and use your invention.

That is exactly what you need to do in the application. Explain your invention with so much detail that you will bore the knowledgeable reader to death. Describe how everything is related, using as much detail as possible.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How do the various components fit together mechanically?
  • How do the various components cooperate to create a working invention?

Write your detailed description as if you had to teach a blind person how to create and use your invention…

The goal of the written disclosure is to provide verbal description that is much like a step-by-step how-to manual.

If you are trying to describe your invention to someone who cannot see then you’ll find creative and enlightening ways to verbally get your message across.

This is the level of detail you want to use when you file a patent application.

Step 7 – How To File a Provisional Patent Application: Competitive Advantage

Up until this point you have been describing your own invention.

Now it is time to distinguish your invention from other solutions or inventions you know about.

In almost all cases there will be something that is available on the market that does what your invention does.

Your invention should be superior in at least some way. This can be in cost, ease of use, because it is more lightweight, requires fewer steps, is stronger, faster, and/or less resource intensive, to name a few examples.

Here you need to explain what is deficient, missing, lacking, insufficient, undesirable and/or inferior about that which is a similar product.

There is no need to explain differences with respect to other inventions or solutions that are only tangentially related.

Instead, focus on distinguishing those inventions or solutions that are perceived as substitutes, or which relate to an earlier generation of the technology.

Other related solutions or inventions are commonly called “prior art,” but when describing these other solutions or inventions you do not want to refer to them as “prior art.”

This is because if you use the term “prior art” it will be considered to be an admission that the reference is in fact prior art for your invention, whether it is legally prior art or not.

You want to admit nothing, so stay away from this loaded legal term.

The key to answering this question is to remember that you do not want to actually describe the other solutions or inventions, just describe the problems with them.

If you talk about what the other solution does, if and when it is necessary to engage in patent prosecution with the patent examiner, you may find it difficult to back away from positive, descriptive statements that have previously been made.

For this reason, you should not describe what the prior solution is or does, just explain what it is lacking. Explaining what it is lacking will in its own subtle way demonstrate the importance of your invention.

I’ve put together a template for this section that covers any category of invention:

Machine/Manufacture/Composition of Matter/Process:

Currently there are a number of solutions for {INSERT DESCRIPTION}.  Some of these solutions attempt to {INSERT VAGUE CHARACTERIZATION}, but these solutions fail to meet the needs of the industry because {INSERT PROBLEMS}.  Other solutions attempt to {INSERT VAGUE CHARACTERIZATION}, but these solutions are similarly unable to meet the needs of the industry because {INSERT PROBLEMS}.  Still other solutions seek to {INSERT VAGUE CHARACTERIZATION}, but these solutions also fail to meet industry needs because {INSERT PROBLEMS}.

Step 8 – How To File a Provisional Patent Application: Uniqueness – What your Invention Does Differently

In Step 7 you focused on describing what the prior art was lacking in functionality and because of that lacking, it makes your solution superior.

Now, you need to describe what makes your invention different than other available solutions or inventions that you identified.

While focusing on differences in general is good, the focus should be on the differences that make your invention superior and/or more desirable.

Provide as much detail as possible. List each and every difference you can think of with respect to functionality and usage.

To help, think of the end result of your invention. What does it achieve in people, on machines, in the grander scheme?

Describe how it provides superior reliability, peace of mind, relaxation, entertainment, comfort, etc.

Step 9 – How To File a Provisional Patent Application: Uniqueness – How your Invention Does it Differently

In Step 8, you described what makes your invention different from a functionality and useage standpoint.

Most people think about your invention in terms of being better, faster, more efficient, etc., but these characteristics describe the functionality and use of the invention.

They do not describe the core patentability.

To be awarded a patent, you have to demonstrate that the substance of your invention must be different from the prior art, and must not be a trivial combination of the prior art.

For inventions having a physical, tangible manifestation, the substance you need to focus on is “structure.”

  • What are the structural differences between your invention and the prior art?

This is where you need to identify differences in fastener types, shapes, ergonomic grips, choice of materials, specific angles, and reasons for omitting certain features.

Your invention could be different because it has more components, less components, combines components, or structures the components differently.

Try to identify as many differences as possible. The more the better!

What may seem like a minor difference to you could make all the difference in the eyes of the patent examiner, so each and every identifiable structural difference should be detailed.

For those inventions without a tangible manifestation (i.e., software, business methods, computerized processes) the focus needs to be on the architecture and executable steps that implement the uniqueness or superiority.

Step 10 – How To File a Provisional Patent Application: Figures/Drawings

Figures are not required for filing a provisional patent application – but you really should include them to make sure you cover anything that was not or cannot be fully described by words alone.

What’s cool is that a provisional application is informal, and therefore informal (hand drawn drawings) are acceptable. However, you should take the time and effort to make sure they actually show what you are intending.

If all you have is photos, and you can’t find a way to get a proper drawing, include the photos and images – just make sure they are visible on a black and white scanner!

You should introduce your drawings and figures in some way, so I’ve templated some ways you can reference your drawings with proper patent language:

FIG. # shows a {FRONT VIEW or SIDE VIEW} of {INSERT INVENTION TITLE}.

FIG. # shows a {INSERT CHARACTERIZATION} of a {INSERT COMPONENT SHOWN}, which is a part of one particular version of the {INSERT SHORT INVENTION NAME}.

FIG. # shows a {INSERT CHARACTERIZATION} of one particular version of the invention.

FIG.# shows a {INSERT CHARACTERIZATION} of an alternative version of the invention.

Step 11 – How To File a Provisional Patent Application: Description of Figures

To make sure you properly identify everything within your patent application, your job here is to not only create the drawings to the best of your ability – but to describe them!

Yes, you need to articulate the elements shown in the drawings just to assure that nothing gets left out.

The best way to do this is to numerically identify each element on each figure – and provide a note for it. Then, reference that number in your detailed description.

Every single element that you discussed in the above steps should be identified separately with its own numeral, and fully depicted in how it is positioned relative to other elements.

Do not take shortcuts in this section, as it will be the bedrock foundation of your specification and how you will claim your invention when you file your nonprovisional patent application within one year from now.

Example:

Referring now to FIG. 1A, a diagram is shown illustrating a top view of a water sports device 100 in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the invention. As shown, the water sports device 100 includes a riding board 110 and a tow hook assembly 120. The water sports device 100 may also include foot bindings 130 (e.g. foot straps) attached to a middle section of a top side of the riding board 110. Knee padding may also be adhered to a back section of the top side of the riding board 110 (shown as element 710 in FIG. 7A). Knee padding may alternatively be adhered to both front and back sections of the top side of the riding board 110 (shown as element 810 in FIG. 8A). Foot grips 140 may also be attached to the middle section of the top side of the riding board 110. The water sports device 100 may also include one or more fins 150 attached to an underside of the riding board 110.

Step 12 – How To File a Provisional Patent Application: Documents Needed to File

Need a checklist on what all needs to be filed?

Here is the list of what you should submit with your Provisional Patent Application:

  • Invention Title, and Inventor(s) Names (See Step 1)
  • Full Written Specification (This is what you wrote in Steps 2-9 and 11)
  • All Figures (These are the drawings you made and described in Step 10)
  • Complete Cover Sheet (SB/16)
  • Micro/Small Entity Form (Form SB/15A)

To avoid any issues on uploading the document and transferring it, make sure it is in PDF format. You should be able to “Save As” in most word processing systems and export it in PDF format.

And of course, make sure that you have everything spell-checked, proofread, and edited to have your best foot forward prior to filing.

Step 13 – How To File a Provisional Patent Application: E-Filing with the USPTO

Last but not least, is the actual filing of your patent documents. Once you’ve gathered all of your documents (see Step 12) you are ready to file.

Navigate to the USPTO “Portal Applications” page: https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/portal-applications

From here – click on “eFile (Unregistered)” which is the first option under “Patent Electronic Filing System (EFS-Web). See the image below with hyperlink in red oval.

The USPTO has done a fine job in helping navigate new filers through the system. They made the process easy so that a first-time solo inventor can file it on their own.

eFiling a patent application - Bold Patents Patent Attorney

In Conclusion: Follow These 13 Steps File a Patent Application

So you learned how to get a patent for your idea in the How to Patent My Idea article and now you are ready for a patent application.

Follow these 13 steps to file your patent application. (Click on any of the links below to revisit that particular section) 

  1.  Invention Category & Title
  2. What Is Your General Description?
  3. What Is the Market Need?
  4. Basic Version of your Invention
  5. Description of Alternative Embodiments
  6. Full Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments
  7.  Competitive Advantage
  8. Uniqueness: What your Invention Does Differently
  9. Uniqueness: How your Invention Does it Differently
  10.  Figures/Drawings
  11. Description of Figures
  12.  Documents Needed to File
  13.  E-Filing with the USPTO

Ready to take steps towards filing a patent? You can book a free consultation with us to get professional guidance through the process described above. In addition, we will gift you with Bold Patents: The Inventor’s Guide to Patents book for FREE! (Click here to get started today!)

What did you think of the article? What questions do you have about filing your patent application? Please let me know in the comments below!  I am here to help! 

Legal Note: This blog article does not constitute as legal advice. Although the article was written by a licensed USPTO patent attorney there are many factors and complexities that come into patenting an idea. We recommend you consult a lawyer if you want legal advice for your particular situation.  No attorney-client or confidential relationship exists by simply reading and applying the steps stated in this blog article.

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