In every patent application, the main cost is the time and attention devoted by the attorney to the application. This is true even if the applicant merely wants the attorney to be available for consultation rather than drafting of the application. Other costs, such as a draftsman’s fee to produce figures compliant the rules, back office costs to prepare all accompanying documents, and the filing fee, can be significant, but typically are less even as a group than the cost of attorney involvement.
Attorney cost can be greatly reduced with a PPA. This is particularly valuable for a startup company that is devoting its time and attention to R&D rather than to patents. There are no formal requirements for a US PPA, no rules about which sections must appear, no rules about element numbers in figures, no rules about claims. In fact, the PPA may be filed in any language, even in more than one language, and English is not required.1 Therefore, in many cases the applicant can write much of the PPA, at least as a first draft.2 This greatly reduces total cost.
Further, there are typically no draftsman’s fees, since compliance with rules is not required. Back office fees are minimal, or even zero of applicants file by themselves. Finally, government filing fee for a PPA is about 20% of the fee for filing an NPA. In short, a US NPA that might cost $10,000-$12,000 to prepare and file, could easily cost $3,000-$4,000, or even less, if filed as a PPA.
1 However, in order to file an NPA with priority of filing date back to the time of the PPA, the applicant must file, in addition to the English language NPA, a translation of the PPA into English, together with a written statement, again in English, that the translation is accurate. Other strategies may be employed with non-English applications, but claim to early priority requires timely submission of a translation.
2 As I explain in my book, Provisional Patent Applications: Use and Abuse (2017), a draft PPA prepared by an applicant should always be reviewed, and least briefly, by a patent attorney.