What is the difference between a disclosure document and a provisional application?

A Disclosure Document is not a patent application, and does not permit the term "Patent Pending" to be applied in connection with the invention. The date of receipt of a Disclosure Document in the USPTO will not become the effective filing date of any patent application subsequently filed. The date of the Disclosure Document's receipt in the USPTO, however, provides evidence of a date of conception if it is referenced in a related patent application within two years of such receipt.

The Disclosure Document brochure is at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/disdo.html.

Unlike a Disclosure Document, a provisional application is a patent application, which establishes an official United States patent application filing date for the invention and permits the term "Patent Pending" to be applied in connection with the invention. A foreign application may claim priority to a provisional application, but a disclosure document may not be relied upon for priority. A provisional application automatically becomes abandoned when its pendency expires 12 months after the provisional application filing date by operation of law. Applicants must file a non-provisional application claiming benefit of the earlier provisional application filing date in the USPTO before the provisional application pendency period expires in order to preserve any benefit from the provisional-application filing.

Information on provisional applications is located at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/provapp.htm.

Upon request, the USPTO will send Disclosure Document and Provisional Patent Application brochures including forms. For additional information, you may contact the USPTO Contact Center (UCC) and request to be transferred to the Inventors Assistance Center (IAC). IAC representatives are available Monday through Friday (except federal holidays) from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

USPTO FAQ - Questions and Answers (15JUN2006)