A provisional patent application filing receipt indicates that the USPTO has granted you a patent priority date. The patent priority date is the same day as your patent filing date in the case of a provisional patent application filing. From this date forward, you have 12 months to file a non-provisional patent application claiming priority to the provisional. If you miss this deadline, your provisional patent priority date will expire and not be recoverable!
Three important things to note, however.
First – make sure that the filing receipt isn’t accompanied by any other notice. For instance, the filing receipt may accompany a notice to file missing application parts or a notice to file corrected application papers. These notices indicate that your application was filed with defects which, if not corrected within a specified date, will cause your application to be rejected and the patent priority date lost. In some instances, if you’ve already missed the deadline – an extension filing is possible. It is advised that you immediately consult a Patent Attorney if you received such notice.
Second – This document does not mean your patent application was deemed patentable. In fact, in the case of a provisional patent filing, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) does not examine the patent application on its merits (e.g., it doesn’t consider the subject matter of your patent app). Rather, it merely makes sure that all of the administrative formalities have been properly accounted for and, with such accounting, holds your patent priority date for twelve months.
Third – A Foreign Filing License (or a Foreign Patent Filing License) is granted. With each patent filing, the USPTO makes sure that the subject matter of the patent filing is not under export control. Typically, inventions that may be modified for use as a weapon, as well as several other inventions under export control, are tagged for confidentiality and prohibited from disclosure outside of the US. (See International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and EAR). This happens in a very small fraction of all patent filings. As such, the USPTO requires that all inventions conceived in the US are first filed with the USPTO before the inventor can file outside of the US. Once cleared, a foreign filing license (FFL) is issued to the inventor/applicant.
If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.
Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.