Patent pending is a legal designation available to anyone who files an application, such as those filed with the USPTO. This designation informs others that an application has been filed and is currently pending. In other words, the patent owner is seeking patent protection, but has not yet received patent rights. No legal rights are awarded while the application is pending and the extent of future rights is unknown.
Patent pending status is available to those who have filed provisional applications and non-provisional applications. However, a provisional patent application will expire after 1 year. Thus, a provisional application will no longer be pending after 1 year unless the applicant files a subsequent application on the same technology.
A patent pending designation may deter competitors from copying your technology. However, an experienced patent attorney may be able to predict the limits of future patent rights if the application is published or disclosed.