Main Article: Patent
Main Article: Intellectual Property
A patent application is a formal request to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the grant of a patent for the specific invention described and claimed in the application. The term "patent application" is used to refer to both the process of applying for a patent and to the patent specifications itself (i.e. the specific invention described).
A person, either legal (i.e. a business) or natural, must file an application at the patent office with the jurisdiction to grant a patent in the geographic area in which the applicant would like coverage. For example, the United States has a national patent office (USPTO), however the European Patent Office is a regional body. The patent office will grant the patent office once they have confirmed that the patent specification complies with the laws of the jurisdiction.
Patent prosecution refers to the process of negotiating with a patent office for the grant of a patent.
Patent litigation refers to the legal proceedings for infringement of a patent, after it has already been granted by the patent office.
Types of patent applications
Individual patent offices use different names for the various types of patent applications, but the general types are listed below. These general types apply to the different categories of patents (i.e. utility patents, plant patents, and design patents).
A standard patent application contains all the necessary requirements (i.e. a written description of the invention and claims). A standard patent application may or may not result in the grant of a final patent. This depends on the outcome of an examination by a trained patent official at the patent office.
In the United States, a standard patent application is referred to as a "non-provisional" application.
A provisional patent application allows the applicant to place an application on file to obtain a filing date. This allows the applicant to place the words "patent pending" on their invention, which can deter competitors and incentivize potential investors. Another benefit of a provisional patent is that it offsets the expense and complexity of a standard patent application.
No enforceable intellectual property rights can be obtained through the filing of a provisional application alone.
In the United States, a provisional application may be incorporated into a standard patent application within one year. Otherwise, the provisional application will expire after one year.
A continuation application can be filed as a continuation of a previous patent application. It is a convenient method for investors to pursue additional claims to an invention that were disclosed in an earlier application that has not been issued or abandoned.
A divisional application is one that has been divided from a pre-existing patent application. This application can only contain subject matter from the application from which it was divided (the parent patent application). Additionally, the divisional application will retain the filing and priority date of the parent application. Divisional applications are typically used in situations where the original patent application described more than one invention (i.e. it lacks unity of invention), and the applicant is required to split each of the inventions into divisional applications that each claim a single, unique invention.