What is the difference between a provisional application and a regular (or “utility”) patent application?

In certain circumstances, U.S. provisional applications can provide a tool for preserving patent rights while temporarily reducing costs. This occurs because the application is not examined during the year in which it is pending and claims are not required. A regular U.S. application and related foreign applications must be filed within one year of the provisional form in order to receive its early filing date. However, an applicant only receives the benefit of the earlier filing date for material that is described and enabled in the provisional application. As a result, the patent attorney may need your assistance when an application is filed as a provisional. What’s different about foreign patent protection?

Foreign patent protection is subject to the laws of each individual country, although in a general sense the process works much the same as it does in the United States. In foreign countries, however, an inventor will lose any patent rights if he or she publicly discloses the invention prior to filing the patent application. In contrast, the United States has a one-year grace period.