A provisional patent application is a patent application that can be filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that has a reduced filing fee and less formal requirements, primarily not requiring legal patent claims. The provisional application is typically used to obtain an early filing date when there is insufficient time or money to prepare a regular patent application.

Provisional patent applications are not examined by the USPTO and do not result in an issued patent. A regular patent application must be filed prior to the one-year anniversary of the provisional application filing date in order to claim the benefit of the provisional application’s earlier filing date. Although claims are not required, it is important to consider possible claim language in the provisional application because if the claim language used in the regular application is not supported the benefit the provisional filing date can be lost.