It is crucial to protect your invention if you want to compete in today’s marketplace. That means getting a filing date with the US Patent Office right away so that your competitors don’t get rights to your invention before you. Fortunately, there is a fairly quick and relatively inexpensive way to do this.

Let’s look at how a provisional patent application can protect your invention without costing thousands of dollars.

Need for a provisional patent application. . .

Some inventors simply do not have the money to hire a patent attorney and will attempt to file their own patent application. The Do-It-Yourself patent application is almost always a bad idea. Mistakes are common. At best, the do-it-yourself filer ends up hiring a patent attorney to correct the mistake. This often costs more than it would have cost to hire a patent attorney from the start. At worst, it is too late to correct the mistake. The inventor loses some or all rights to patent their invention. Learn about one common mistake in our patent attorney video.

What are your options when it comes to filing a provisional patent application?

1)  Mail a description of your invention to yourself (DO NOT DO THIS!!!).

Sometimes called the “Poor Man’s Patent” – this never was a good idea. Basically, people thought if they could show a record of prior invention that they could file a patent application someday in the future (for example, when they have more money), and get a patent. While the US Patent Law used to be a first-to-invention, this approach was still fraught with pitfalls and many an unwary inventor lost some or all rights to their invention by doing this. But today, it is even more critical that NO ONE EVER DO THIS again. In 2013, the US Patent Law changed to a First-To-File system. That means – whoever files their patent application first – regardless of whoever else may have invented it before that – will get the patent. You will lose rights to your invention if you are ‘Second In Line’ (so to speak) at the Patent Office. Learn about this common mistake in our patent attorney video.

2)  Pro Bono Patent Programs.

Not everyone can hire a patent attorney. There are pro bono programs for inventors who qualify. See this article in the Denver Post. But there are strict income requirements. I volunteered with Mi Casa in the past, and it is a great program run by great attorneys Please contact them if you think that you might qualify. (Disclaimer – I do not currently participate as I have other volunteer commitments at this time). But this program is truly intended to help low income applicants, and not anybody who doesn’t want to spend the money to hire a patent attorney.

3)  Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Patent Application.

There is no requirement that you hire a patent attorney to file a patent application for your invention. You are allowed to file a patent application on your own behalf. But this is almost always a bad idea. The patent process is complicated, and seemingly simple mistakes can mean losing all rights to your invention. Even the US Patent Office warns against trying to file your own patent application.

4)  Work with a patent attorney to file a provisional patent application.

An experienced patent attorney can prepare and file a provisional patent application for you fairly quickly and relatively inexpensively. A patent attorney understands the legal requirements to write a comprehensive patent application that will protect your legal rights to  your invention. In addition, a patent attorney can advise you regarding when to file a full utility patent application and any foreign filings (filing a patent application outside of the U.S.).

What to look for when filing a provisional patent application.

If you are reading this, you likely have never filed a provisional patent application before. Here is a brief overview of what you should expect from your patent attorney when filing a provisional patent application.

·       Legal advice from an experienced patent attorney who understands the patent process.

·       Someone who understands your invention, and how best to describe important features you want to protect.

·       An opportunity to review and comment on the provisional patent application before it is filed.

·       An overview of all important deadlines once the provisional patent application has been filed.

Benefits of filing a provisional patent application. . .

·       A filing date with the US Patent Office. This ensures that you will receive the benefit of the First-To-File patent law if someone else files for the same or similar invention after your filing date.

·       You can publicly disclose your invention after filing a provisional patent application, without losing any rights to file a utility patent application in the U.S. Some countries do not recognize the provisional filing date – you will need to file directly in those countries before you publicly disclose your invention.

·       Most foreign countries will recognize the filing date of your provisional patent application if you decide to file outside of the United States. Certain deadlines apply, so be sure to check with your patent attorney if you want to file outside of the U.S.

·       The provisional patent application is a property right. You can sell or license your invention and rights to the provisional patent application once it has been filed at the Patent Office.


Developing a product and bringing it to market can be challenging. But protecting legal rights to patent your invention doesn’t have to be.

If you would like to learn more about having a patent attorney file a provisional patent application for your invention, give us a call at (720) 221-3708, or Email Us. Or start today by visiting our online patent law firm.