Patent Articles Understanding Patent Applications
Understanding Patent Applications

Types of Applications For Patent:

Non-Provisional Application for a Patent

A nonprovisional application for a patent is made to the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and includes:

 

  • A written document which comprises a specification (description and claims);
  • Drawings (when necessary);
  • An oath or declaration; and
  • Filing, search, and examination fees. Fees for filing, searching, examining, issuing, appealing, and maintaining patent applications and patents are reduced by 50 percent for any small entity that qualifies for reduced fees under 37 CFR 1.27(a), and are reduced by 75 percent for any micro entity that files a certification that the requirements under 37 CFR 1.29(a) or (d) are met.

 

Small Entity Status: Applicant must determine that small entity status under 37 CFR 1.27(a) is appropriate before making an assertion of entitlement to small entity status and paying a fee at the 50 percent small entity discount. Fees change each October. Note that by filing electronically via EFS-Web, the filing fee for an applicant qualifying for small entity status is further reduced.

Micro Entity Status: Applicant must determine that micro entity status under 37 CFR 1.29(a) or (d) is appropriate before filing the required certification of micro entity status and paying a fee at the 75 percent micro entity discount. The patent forms Web page is indexed under the section titled Forms, Patents on the USPTO website at www.uspto.gov. There are two micro entity certification forms – namely form PTO/SB/15A for certifying micro entity status on the “gross income basis” under 37 CFR 1.29(a), and form PTO/SB/15B for certifying micro entity status on the “institution of higher education basis” under 37 CFR 1.29(d). Effective November 15, 2011, any regular nonprovisional utility application filed by mail or hand-delivery will require payment of an additional $400 fee called the “non-electronic filing fee,” which is reduced by 50 percent (to $200) for applicants that qualify for small entity status under 37 CFR 1.27(a) or micro entity status under 37 CFR 1.29(a) or (d). The only way to avoid having to pay the additional $400 non-electronic filing fee is by filing the regular nonprovisional utility application via EFS-Web.

Other patent correspondence, including design, plant, and provisional application filings, as well as correspondence filed in a nonprovisional application after the application filing date (known as “follow-on” correspondence), can still be filed by mail or hand-delivery without incurring the $400 non-electronic filing fee. You do not have to be a Registered eFiler to file a patent application via EFS-Web. However, unless you are a Registered eFiler, you must not attempt to file follow-on correspondence via EFS-Web, because Unregistered eFilers are not permitted to file follow-on correspondence via EFS-Web. Follow-on correspondence filed by anyone other than an EFS-Web Registered eFiler must be sent by mail or be hand-delivered. (See the “General Information and Correspondence” section of this brochure.) In the event you receive from the USPTO a “Notice of Incomplete Application” in response to your EFS-Web filing stating that an application number has been assigned but no filing date has been granted, you must become a Registered eFiler and file your reply to the “Notice of Incomplete Application” via EFS-Web in order to avoid the $400 non-electronic filing fee.

The specification (description and claims) can be created using a word processing program such as Microsoft® Word or Corel® WordPerfect. The document containing the specification can normally be converted into PDF format by the word processing program itself so that it can be included as an attachment when filing the application via EFS-Web. Other application documents, such as drawings and a hand-signed declaration, may have to be scanned as a PDF file for filing via EFS-Web. See the information available at www.uspto.gov/patents/process/file/efs/index.jsp. Any questions regarding filing applications via EFS-Web should be directed to the Electronic Business Center at 866-217-9197.All application documents must be in the English language or a translation into the English language will be required along with the required fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(i).

Each document (which should be filed via EFS-Web in PDF format) must have a top margin of at least 2 cm (3/4 inch), a left side margin of at least 2.5 cm (1 inch), a right side margin of at least 2 cm (3/4 inch) and a bottom margin of at least 2 cm (3/4 inch) with no holes made in the submitted papers. It is also required that the spacing on all papers be 1.5 or double-spaced and the application papers must be numbered consecutively (centrally located above or below the text) starting with page one.

The specification must have text written in a nonscript font (e.g., Arial, Times Roman, or Courier, preferably a font size of 12pt) lettering style having capital letters that should be at least 0.3175 cm (0.125 inch) high, but may be no smaller than 0.21 cm (0.08 inch) high (e.g., a font size of 6). The specification must have only a single column of text.

The specification must conclude with a claim or claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter that the applicant regards as the invention. The portion of the application in which the applicant sets forth the claim or claims is an important part of the application, as it is the claims that define the scope of the protection afforded by the patent. The claims must commence on a separate sheet. More than one claim may be presented provided they differ from each other. Claims may be presented in independent form (e.g. the claim stands by itself) or in dependent form, referring back to and further limiting another claim or claims in the same application. Any dependent claim that refers back to more than one other claim is considered a “multiple dependent claim.”

The application for patent is not forwarded for examination until all required parts, complying with the rules related thereto, are received. If any application is filed without all the required parts for obtaining a filing date (incomplete or defective), the applicant will be notified of the deficiencies and given a time period to complete the application filing (a surcharge may be required)—at which time a filing date as of the date of such a completed submission will be obtained by the applicant. If the omission is not corrected within a specified time period, the application will be returned or otherwise disposed of; the filing fee if submitted will be refunded less a handling fee as set forth in the fee schedule.

The filing fee and declaration or oath need not be submitted with the parts requiring a filing date. It is, however, desirable that all parts of the complete application be deposited in the Office together; otherwise, each part must be signed and a letter must accompany each part, accurately and clearly connecting it with the other parts of the application. If an application that has been accorded a filing date does not include the filing fee or the oath or declaration, applicant will be notified and given a time period to pay the filing fee, file an oath or declaration and pay a surcharge.All applications received in the USPTO are numbered in sequential order, and the applicant will be informed of the application number and filing date by a filing receipt.

The filing date of an application for patent is the date on which a specification (including at least one claim) and any drawings necessary to understand the subject matter sought to be patented are received in the USPTO; or the date on which the last part completing the application is received in the case of a previously incomplete or defective application.

Provisional Application for a Patent

Since June 8, 1995, the USPTO has offered inventors the option of filing a provisional application for patent, which was designed to provide a lower-cost first patent filing in the United States and to give U.S. applicants parity with foreign applicants. Claims and oath or declaration are NOT required for a provisional application. A provisional application provides the means to establish an early effective filing date in a patent application and permits the term “Patent Pending” to be applied in connection with the invention. Provisional applications may not be filed for design inventions.

The filing date of a provisional application is the date on which a written description of the invention, and drawings if necessary, are received in the USPTO. To be complete, a provisional application must also include the filing fee, and a cover sheet specifying that the application is a provisional application for patent. The applicant would then have up to 12 months to file a nonprovisional application for patent as described above. The claimed subject matter in the later filed nonprovisional application is entitled to the benefit of the filing date of the provisional application if it has support in the provisional application. If a provisional application is not filed in English, and a nonprovisional application is filed claiming benefit to the provisional application, a translation of the provisional application will be required. See title 37, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 1.78(a)(5).

Provisional applications are NOT examined on their merits. A provisional application will become abandoned by the operation of law 12 months from its filing date. The 12-month pendency for a provisional application is not counted toward the 20-year term of a patent granted on a subsequently filed nonprovisional application that claims benefit of the filing date of the provisional application.

A surcharge is required for filing the basic filing fee or the cover sheet on a date later than the filing of the provisional application. Unlike nonprovisional utility applications, design, plant, and provisional applications can still be filed by mail or hand-delivery without having to pay the additional $400 non-electronic filing fee. Design and provisional applications can also be filed via EFS-Web. Plant applications, however, are not permitted to be filed via EFS-Web.

Publication of Patent Applications

Publication of patent applications is required by the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 for most plant and utility patent applications filed on or after November 29, 2000. On filing of a plant or utility application on or after November 29, 2000, an applicant may request that the application not be published, but only if the invention has not been and will not be the subject of an application filed in a foreign country that requires publication 18 months after filing (or earlier claimed priority date) or under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. Publication occurs after the expiration of an 18-month period following the earliest effective filing date or priority date claimed by an application. Following publication, the application for patent is no longer held in confidence by the Office and any member of the public may request access to the entire file history of the application.

As a result of publication, an applicant may assert provisional rights. These rights provide a patentee with the opportunity to obtain a reasonable royalty from a third party that infringes a published application claim provided actual notice is given to the third party by applicant, and patent issues from the application with a substantially identical claim. Thus, damages for pre-patent grant infringement by another are now available.

www.uspto.gov/patents