There are three different questions here. Let’s take each question in turn.
1) Does the Patent Office examine provisional patent applications? No, the Patent Office does not examine provisional patent applications. Provisional patent applications for inventions automatically go abandoned after one (1) year unless you file a regular patent application claiming priority to the provisional application within that one (1) year. Be careful and don’t miss this deadline, or you may lose rights to your invention!
2) How long does it take before the Patent Office will examine my patent application? If you file a regular patent application, the Patent Office typically picks these up for examination in about 18 months to 2 years. However, I have seen patent applications pending in the Patent Office for longer than this. The time to examination for a patent application depends on the backlog of other applications at the Patent Office. Typically I will submit a status request with the Patent Office after about 3 years, inquiring when the examiner plans to examine the application, just to make sure the patent application hasn’t fallen through the cracks.
3) When will my patent application issue as a patent? After the Patent Office examines your patent application, the examiner may issue objections and/or rejections. You have an opportunity to address these objections and/or rejections and argue why your patent application should be allowed to issue as a patent. Even after the Patent Office allows your patent application, there are issue fees to pay, and then your patent application goes to the publication division before your patent application issues as a patent. Therefore, predicting an actual issue date for a patent application is nearly impossible.
However, it is important to keep in mind that as soon as you file either a provisional patent application or regular patent application with the Patent Office, you do have “Patent Pending” status, which lasts until you either abandon your patent application, or your patent application issues as a patent. Patent Pending status can be valuable as a marketing tool and may serve as a deterrent for others to infringe your product.