General Questions

What do the terms “patent pending” and “patent applied for” mean?

They are used by a manufacturer or seller of an article to inform the public that an application for patent on that article is on file in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  The law imposes a fine on those who use these terms falsely to deceive the public.

Is there any danger that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will give others information contained in my application while it is pending?

Most patent applications filed on or after November 29, 2000 will be published eighteen months after the filing date of the application, or any earlier filing date relied upon under title 35, United States Code.  Otherwise, all patent applications are maintained in the strictest confidence until the patent is issued or the application is published.  After the application has been published, however, a member of the public may request a copy of the application file.  After the patent is issued, the Office file containing the application and all correspondence leading up to issuance of the patent is made available in the Files Information Unit for inspection by anyone and copies of these files may be purchased from the Office.

May I write to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office directly about my application after it is filed?

The Office will answer an applicant’s inquiries as to the status of the application, and inform you whether your application has been rejected, allowed, or is awaiting action.  However, if you have a patent attorney or agent of record in the application file the Office will not correspond with both you and the attorney/agent concerning the merits of your application.  All comments concerning your application should be forwarded through your attorney or agent.

Is it necessary to go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to transact business concerning patent matters?

No.  Most business with the Patent and Trademark Office is conducted by written correspondence.  Interviews regarding pending applications can be arranged with examiners if necessary and are often helpful.

If two or more persons work together to make an invention, to whom will the patent be granted?

If each had a share in the ideas forming the invention as defined in the claims – even if only as to one claim, they are joint inventors and a patent will be issued to them jointly on the basis of a proper patent application.  If, on the other hand, one of these persons has provided all of the ideas of the invention, and the other has only followed instructions in making it, the person who contributed the ideas is the sole inventor and the patent application and patent shall be in his/her name alone.

If a first person furnishes all of the ideas to make an invention and a second person employs the first person or furnishes the money for building and testing the invention, should the patent application be filed by the first and second persons jointly?

No.  The application must be signed by the true inventor, and filed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in the inventor’s name.  This is the person who furnishes the ideas (e.g. the first person in the above fact pattern), not the employer or the person who furnishes the money.

Does the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office control the fees charged by patent attorneys and agents for their services?

No.  To avoid misunderstanding you may wish to ask for estimated charges for:  (a) the search (b) preparation of the patent application, and (c) U.S. Patent and Trademark Office prosecution.

Will the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office help me to select a patent attorney or agent to make my patent search or to prepare and prosecute my patent application?

No.  The Office cannot make this choice for you.  However, your own friends or general attorney may help you in making a selection.

Will the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office advise me as to whether a certain patent promotion organization is reliable and trustworthy?

No.  The Office has no control over such organizations.  The Office does publish complaints received from the public regarding invention promoters and replies from the invention promotion organizations.

The Office cannot undertake any investigation of the invention promoters but does provide information on our website you should be aware of before doing business with any invention promotion firm.

Questions or complaints should be directed to Mail Stop 24; Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; P.O. Box 1450; Alexandria, VA 22313-1450 or call at (703) 305-8800.

Are there any organizations in my area which can tell me how and where I may be able to obtain assistance in developing and marketing my invention?

Yes. In your own or neighboring communities you may inquire of such organizations as chambers of commerce, and banks.  Many communities have locally financed industrial development organizations which can help you locate manufacturers and individuals who might be interested in promoting your idea.

Are there any state government agencies that can help me in developing and marketing of my invention?

Yes.  In nearly all states there are state planning and development agencies or departments of commerce and industry which seek new product and new process ideas to assist manufacturers and communities in the state.  If you do not know the names or addresses of your state organizations you can obtain this information by writing to the governor of your state.

Can the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office assist me in the developing and marketing of my patent?

No, the Office cannot act or advise concerning the business transactions or arrangements that are involved in the development and marketing of an invention.  The Office, however, will publish, at the request of a patent owner, a notice in the Official Gazette that the patent is available for licensing or sale.  The fee for this is $25.  In addition, the Office of Independent Inventor Programs (OIIP) was established in March 1999 in order to meet the special needs of independent inventors.  OIIP establishes new mechanisms to better disseminate information about the patent and trademark processes and to foster regular communication between the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office and independent inventors.