A patent application can be either a utility patent application (i.e., provisional or nonprovisional patent application) or a design patent application. A utility patent application includes a written description and drawing of how to make and use an invention (i.e., enablement requirement). A design patent application is made of a set of drawings showing the aesthetic features of the design.
To learn how to write a patent application, go to my Guide to Writing a Patent Application.
What are the types of patent applications?
Three different types of patent applications can be filed. They are:
What are the differences between a provisional and nonprovisional patent application?
The utility patent application can be filed as a provisional patent application (PPA) or a nonprovisional patent application (NPA). A simple way to understand the difference between the two is to focus on the word provisional. A provisional filing is one that is tentative. The provisional application is tentative because it is never examined and will never mature into a patent. A nonprovisional is NOT provisional. The NPA will be examined after the USPTO works through its backlog of applications and gets to your application.
For both the provisional and nonprovisional applications, when the patent application is filed, the filing date becomes the priority date. As between two inventors for the same invention, the one that has an earlier filing date will be awarded the patent. That inventor has priority. The one with the later filing date will not receive the patent. In fact, the earlier filed patent application is now prior art to the later filed patent application. For this reason, an earlier priority date is important.
Note that a provisional patent application, though it is never examined and expires automatically after one year, is still considered to be a patent application. The patent application if it is granted will issue as a patent.
What are the parts of a utility patent application?
A complete utility patent application includes the following parts:
- A written description of how to make and use the invention.
- A drawing that shows all aspects of the claimed invention.
- A claim which defines what you are claiming as your invention.
- An Application Data Sheet or ADS.
- A declaration of the inventor(s).
- An assignment (if the invention is being assigned).
- A claim for small or micro entity status, if applicable.
- Track 1 Request (Expedited Examination Request).
Failure to file any one of the above-required documents will cause the Patent Office to send you a Notice to File Missing Parts.
Can you file a design patent application as a provisional application?
You cannot file a design patent application as a nonprovisional patent application. A nonprovisional design patent application does not exist.
A design patent application is also never published as a pre-grant publication. The design patent application becomes publicly available only after it issues as a patent.
Plant patent applications are beyond the scope of this article.