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An applicant may file a provisional patent application for useful innovations. Provisional patent applications are not available for ornamental designs.

A provisional patent application does not secure patent rights, but it does create an official record of an applicant’s invention with the Patent Office. This official record provides an applicant with a 1 year grace period to, among other things, further develop the invention and further assess the marketability and value of the invention. This can help allow an applicant to determine whether the costs associated with utility patent application preparation and patent application examination should be incurred. The filing of a provisional patent application can also preserve rights for filing foreign patent applications.

A provisional patent application becomes abandoned after 1 year from the date on which the provisional application was filed.

A typical overview of the patent application process for a U.S. utility patent that is filed based off a previously filed provisional application:

Provisional Patent Application Process Chart