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The Patenting Process

This fundamental overview of the patent process is intended to introduce inventors to a very brief and basic outline of the patenting process to educate inventors and allow them to engage in a more meaningful conversation with their patent practitioners.  Click here for additional details of the process described below.

The patent process may or may not begin with a patentability search.  In other words, conducting a search is optional.  However, a patentability search will give the inventor an idea of what is already out in the public domain (the prior art).  At the very least, it gives the inventor an idea of the state of the art in the technological field of interest.

With knowledge of the state of the art, the patent application can be drafted and tailored to avoid the prior art.  Once the application is finished it is filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  The application is then examined for form and content.

After examination, an Examiner issues an Office Action or a Notice of Allowance.  The Office Action indicates the Examiner's reasons for not allowing a patent to issue (rejections).  The Notice of Allowance indicates that the patent application meets the criteria for patentability and will issue in due course.

If an office action is received, the Applicant has a chance to respond to the Examiner's assertions by amending the application or arguing against the Examiner's assertions.  If the Examiner is persuaded by the response, a Notice of Allowance is issued and the patent issues in due course.

If the Examiner is not persuaded by the response a Final Office Action is issued stating the reasons why the amendments and/or arguments were not sufficient to overcome the Examiner's rejections.

If the Applicant still feels the Examiner is wrong, the Applicant can file a Request for Continued Examination to continue to argue with the Examiner with additional amendments and/or arguments and the examination process continues on.

Alternatively, the Applicant may file a continuation-in-part application and add new features that may overcome the Examiner's rejections.  Finally, the Applicant may appeal the decision of the Examiner to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences.