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Types of Patents and Patent Applications

Once the inventor has made a decision to proceed with filing a patent application for his/her invention, the type of application must be considered.

  • Provisional Patent Application: A provisional patent application is less formal application which allows a person to become patent pending quickly and with less expense. Though a provisional application establishes a filing date which may then be used in the filing of the more formal application one year later, it does not, alone, mature into a patent. This type of application is merely a placeholder that expires after one year.
  • Non-Provisional Application: A non-provisional application is a more formal application which can be filed after a provisional application or in place of one. If the non-provisional is filed within one year of a provisional application for the same invention, the non-provisional application may claim the date of the earlier filing. A non-provisional application is a formal document which requires drawings, full disclosure and description of the invention, claims, and other formalities. Unlike a provisional application which simply acts as a placeholder, a non-provisional patent application is reviewed by an examiner at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
  • Design Patent Application: A design patent application is a specific type of non-provisional application that is available for design innovations of an existing invention. A provisional application is not an option for design patent applications.