Since June 8, 1995, the United States Patent Office has offered inventors the option of filing a provisional application (or a “provisional”). According to the patent office, a provisional patent application was designed to provide a lower cost for a first patent filing in the United States and to give U.S. applicants parity with foreign applicants.
Provisional applications are NOT examined on their merits. A provisional application will become abandoned by the operation of law 12 months from its filing date. So, the applicant must file a non-provisional application on the disclosed invention within the 12 months to derive the benefit of the filing date of the provisional application.
Claims and oath or declaration are not required for a provisional application. However, provisional applications must meet all of the other requirements of a patent application. In other words there must be a sufficient written description, an enabling disclosure teaching one skilled in the art how to make and use the invention, and the invention must described the “best mode” known to the inventor as of the date of the provisional filing.
Filing a provisional allows an applicant to use the term “Patent Pending” with the invention.