How do I file a patent application?
Inventors can file a provisional application on their own if they feel comfortable to do so before they commit to the utility application. This gives the inventor 12 months to market their invention to determine if it has legs before they spend money on the more expensive utility application. That being said, there are filing requirements that must be followed in order for the mailing date to be deemed the application filing date.
Generally, the date an item is filed with the patent office is the day that it is received. You can and should take advantage of the benefits of using express mail to file your applications. When you use express mail, your filing date becomes the date on your express mail receipt, i.e., the day you mail it. I've never filed an application without express mail, but I suspect it could take a week or two for the patent office to stamp your application received. If you chose the mail route, include a return postcard with a list of the items included in the envelope and the number of pages for each item. The patent office will return the postcard with a stamp indicating that they received all of the items, which serves as proof in the not so rare instance that the patent office loses your application. By far, the best way to file an application is electronically. There is no cost for filing electronically, you can pay the fees using credit card online, and you get your filing receipt instantly!
When you file a provisional patent application you will have to include a Provisional Patent Application Cover Sheet. Utility applications require a Utility Patent Application Transmittal and a Declaration of Invention. Failure to use these form may result in the Patent Office treating the application as incomplete and it will send the applicant a notice to correct the deficiencies usually with an extra fee. When filing a utiltiy application it is also helpful in determining the proper fee that needs to be paid by using a Fee Transmittal Form. The Patent Office provides the Provisional Application Cover Sheet SB-16, Utility Transmittal SB-05, as well as many other forms, online at uspto.gov. The fee may be paid at the time of filing of either the provisional or the utility application. If the fee is not paid, the application will be considered incomplete and the applicant will receive a similar notice to correct the deficiency. If, however, the application being filed in the U.S. is a National Stage Application of an International PCT Application, the fee must be paid when the National Application is filed or the application will be deemed abandoned.