A provisional patent application is a temporary application which is never examined, never granted, and never enforceable. This application has to be effectively converted into a non-provisional patent application or a PCT patent application else it will automatically expire, unless a corresponding utility application is filed within 12 months of the provisional filing date. As a provisional application is informal in nature, it may be filed even if it only includes whatever minimum description and/or drawing(s) are needed to understand the invention, the filing fee, and some bibliographical information. The advantage of filing such application is to claim priority for the non-provisional applications filed later.
Can Provisional Applications be filed without claims?
As discussed in the introduction part above, due to informal nature of provisional applications they can be filed without claims but if you are intending to obtain foreign patents, for example, in Europe, it is required to file the provisional application with claims. So the procedure of jurisdiction where the provisional application is being filed has to be understood and adhered to.
What is the Cost associated with the filing of a Provisional Application?
Provisional applications are relatively inexpensive to prepare and file as compared to Non-Provisional applications. As per the latest fee schedule by USPTO, filing of a Provisional application can cost between $65 to $260 depending on the size of entity filing the application.
When is a Provisional Application published?
Unless the provisional application is used as a priority document for a later filing, the application will not be publicly accessible. One can file the provisional application, establish a priority date, and continue to keep the invention secret for up to 12 months.