What is the difference between a provisional and non-provisional patent application?

A provisional application is a complete technical disclosure of the invention and is filed at the patent office to obtain an early priority date.  The provisional patent application provides 12 months to file a regular application (non-provisional application). The provisional patent application is, generally, filed in the following circumstances:

  1. The product containing the invention is to be disclosed to the public soon and there is not enough time to prepare a full-fledged patent application.
  2. Applicant or owner of the invention is not sure about the potential of the invention. The provisional patent application provides the applicant 12 months to ascertain the novelty, the business aspect, and the market for the idea.
  3. The provisional patent application gives “Patent Pending Status” and act as a deterrent for potential copying of the invention.

The provisional patent application includes a general description of the invention, while the non-provisional patent application should be prepared in accordance to the rules of the Patent Office, and should include various sections, such as, background, summary, detailed description, and at least one claim for which the protection is sought. Also, the provisional patent applications are not examined by the examiner and is abandoned if the non-provisional application is not filed within 12 months of the filing of the provisional application.