You may occasionally learn about a competitive patent or application but not know about it’s current application or patent status. Can you find out from the patent office website yourself? Sometimes you can - sometimes not. Let's talk about the possibilities.
The first concept to understand is the confidentiality of patent application information. Although there are a few exceptions (there are always exceptions) the general rule under 35 U.S.C. 122 is that patent applications remain confidential until 18 months after filing - at which point they are published. If you want to know about all of that in detail you can find it here. But here is a shorter version that you might find helpful.
All right -what are the exceptions? An application will not be published if it is:
(i) no longer pending;
(ii) subject to a secrecy order;
(iii) a provisional application; or
(iv) an application for a design patent.
And patent applications that have not been published under 35 U.S.C. 122 are generally preserved in confidence.
But if a patent application has been published there is a free source of information. This is the Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website.
PAIR displays information regarding patent application status. There is a Public and Private side to PAIR. “ Public PAIR ” only displays issued or published application status. To access Public PAIR, you need only have a patent, application, or publication number that you wish to search.
There is a “Private PAIR”, but it is available primarily to patent agents and attorneys and their professional assistants (paralegals) and then only to applications to which they are approved. Private PAIR provides secure real-time access to pending application status and history using digital certificates issued from the USPTO's Public Key Infrastructure.
What does Public PAIR provide?
Public PAIR is available to the public (meaning you). It provides:
Group Art Unit:
Earliest Publication No:
Attorney Docket Number:
Earliest Publication Date:
Class / Subclass:
First Named Inventor:
Furthermore it provides a complete transaction history of the application from the original filing and allows you to download all of the communications between the applicant and the examiner.
Pretty comprehensive. If you have an application pending and it has been published you can follow the patent status yourself and follow how your patent agent or attorney is doing in his/her battles with the examiner.
And we should mention there are other free websites available for checking patent status. We will briefly cover them in a follow-up article. But they do not give you the access to the complete transaction history of the application or patent that the PAIR system does.
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