Buying Time

Starting the Process

If, once you examine the pros and cons carefully, you decide a provisional application is a good idea for your invention, you can begin the application process. The nuts and bolts of filing a provisional application for a patent are pretty straightforward. Here's what you need to include:

  • A written description of the invention
  • Any drawings that will aid in the understanding of the invention
  • The names of all inventors
  • The appropriate filing fee. This must be a certified check or money order made out to the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks
  • A cover sheet identifying your patent application as provisional

The cover sheet, which labels your application as a provisional one, must include the inventor's name(s) and residence(s), invention title, attorney or agent information, a correspondence address, and the name of any U.S. government agency that might have a property interest in the application. You can download a sample cover sheet from the PTO Web site. The cover sheet form number is PTO/SB/16.

For more information on provisional applications for patents, you can call the Office of the Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Patents Policy and Projects at (703) 305-9285. For a copy of a brochure on provisional patents or to listen to general patent information, call the PTO General Information Services Division at (800) 786-9199

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This article was originally published in the March 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Buying Time.

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