I am considering filing for a provisional patent which deals with mobile and web technologies. Now this is a method to do something. But how detailed do I go? Right now, I have something working in Android but I plan to implement it in other platforms(iOS, windows, blackberry). How do I describe this in the patent?

For example: Let's say I want the to open the app in the User's phone if the user clicks something on the website. How detailed would this be?

The user clicks button X on the website. The website sends a push notification to the user's Android device (iPhone, blackberry?). The android device receives this notification and sends a broadcast to invoke the app / apps and an activity is displayed. 

Is this too detailed? Can I include other platforms too somehow? Any help would be appreciated.

EDIT: Basically, I am a college student graduating soon and I am planning to do a startup. I have done some idea/customer validation and would like to protect my idea. Being a college student, my budget is limited (and hence considering Nolo, LegalZoom, etc). I might be getting some funding but in order to do that and talk to investors about my plans, I would like to file for a provisional patent first. Since my budget is limited, and looking to establish my company, I would say my risk acceptance is pretty high.

I also came across this excellent article about the changes that come into effect on March 16th. Would it help if I wait till then? And can I do this on my own? (I apologize, this might be for a separate question)

  • There is no correct answer to this question. It depends on your goals, budget, risk acceptance and strategic planning. Maybe you could edit your question to include some of those, and it might be possible to provide at least a partial answer.
    – Yorick
    Feb 13, 2013 at 13:56
  • @Yorick Thank you for your input, I have added the information Feb 13, 2013 at 14:04
  • Thank you. As you may have heard, there have been some recent changes to the patent statues and how they are interpreted. I expect someone will soon provide an excellent answer that goes through the various options of provisional filing strategies outlining the risks, benefits, and costs of each in view of the recent changes.
    – Yorick
    Feb 13, 2013 at 14:30
  • 1
    Regarding the March 16 deadline, the majority consensus among patent attorneys is that, in most cases, an applicant is better off filing before March 16. Feb 13, 2013 at 15:51

2 Answers 2


The law requires that the application provide a complete "written description of the invention, and of the manner and process of making and using it, in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains" to make and use the invention. If you want the provisional application to be valuable then it needs to have a full and complete description, with diagrams, flowcharts, pseudocode or sourcecode. Most folks end up including 6-7 pages of drawings and 10-15 pages of text. In addition, you should drafting about 20 different claims that cover your invention in various ways. That process of drafting claims helps an inventor to better understand the potential scope of the invention as well as particular detailed ideas that might add patentable weight.

You should recognize that most patent applicants are forced to amend their patent claims in a way that falls-back on a narrower scope of invention than they previously thought. That is because there are many other folks doing similar technological work and you can only claim patent rights on the advances that you made. Having a detailed description and multiple claims provides you with the ability to fall back on alternative descriptions of the invention if needed.

If you don't want to hire a patent attorney, you should at least read the book "patent it yourself" that provides a lot of helpful and important guidance. Also, I would recommend that you search for patents on similar inventions, look at the disclosure and claims provided in those applications and then try to make yours more detailed than those.

  • Thank you, this was really helpful. Just 1 question, "should be drafting about 20 different claims that cover your invention in various ways". I was thinking of how to include the several functionalities or different things that I need to protect with my idea. You are suggesting I file for several different provisional patents right? Feb 13, 2013 at 16:38
  • You can put it all in a single provisional application. The mention of 20 claims is due to that being the number of claims one gets "for free" in a regular non-provisional application. As you will learn in your further homework, provisional applications do not necessarily have any claims. Thinking about what would be claimed is an important way to help you understand the core aspects of the invention.
    – George White
    Feb 13, 2013 at 17:11
  • Ok. Thanks a lot Dennis and George. Sorry I do not have enough reps yet to upvote. Feb 13, 2013 at 17:21
  • I'm thinking of using an approach like this: A main flowchart shows the overall novel implementation and can thus form the basis of an independent claim. If the claim produced from the main flow-chart stands on its own, then the more detailed descriptions in sub-routine-flowcharts called by the main flowchart could simply become dependent claims. (no?)
    – Panu Logic
    Apr 13, 2019 at 18:36

Most importantly, DO NOT file a patent application with LegalZoom or any other cut-rate self-directed services, especially when it comes to this type of technology.

The problem with these LegalZoom patent services, and the like is, that they lure inventors into believing that they can get solid patent protection for cheap. In fact, the sad reality is that patent applications drafted this way offer effectively no patent protection and have little chance of withstanding the examination process. Plus, the nature of the patent system makes it such that inventors won’t know this until it’s too late and their patent rights are irrevocably lost.

The following blog post discusses the perils of LegalZoom in great detail: http://www.patentsdemystified.com/is-it-safe-to-use-legalzoom-to-file-a-patent-application/

It would be best to talk with a patent attorney about this before doing anything. Typically, you can find one who will give you a free consultation.

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