A parent patent application is typically the first non-provisional patent application submitted for a new invention. An application for a parent patent may include multiple inventions, and a child patent application may be filed on a parent patent application.

In many cases, a continuing application will come into play when dealing with parent and child patent applications. A continuing application is a type of patent application that will extend the examination of an application. This will enable you, as the applicant, to continue to seek out a broader scope of protection while your initial patent application processes.

Child Patent Applications

A child patent application may be filed while a parent patent application is still processing. One of the benefits of linking a child patent application to a parent patent application is the fact that the child patent application will benefit from the priority date of the parent patent application. Also, a continuing application may be filed while you're waiting to hear if the parent patent application is approved or denied.

There are a couple of other terms for child patent applications. They are:

  • Continuing applications
  • Divisional applications
  • Continuation-in-part applications

With continuing applications, there is nothing new to disclose. Rather, new or different claims are seeking support in the parent patent application.

Divisional applications also indicate that there is nothing new to disclose and a new or different claim is seeking support in the parent patent application.

However, a continuation-in-part application (CIP) is one that contains a new disclosure. That new disclosure is also seeking support from the parent patent application.

Since a CIP application contains new material that wasn't disclosed in the parent patent application, it will have a different priority date. That date will be earlier, based on the subject matter that was disclosed in the parent patent application. Now, the CIP date of application will act as a priority date for any ensuing disclosures.

Continuing and Divisional Applications

While continuing and divisional applications are quite similar, a divisional application actually refers to a child patent application containing a claim that was filed but not pursued by the parent patent application.

Also, a divisional patent application is a form of a child patent application where the original patent included more than one invention. If this applies to you, you'll be asked to describe each invention in a different application, otherwise known as a divisional.

A continuing patent application may become an important element in your patent enforcement strategy. A continuation is a way to highlight the claims of a parent application. This could allow you to expand the reach of your parent application, creating a stronger patent in the end.

Once a parent patent application has been approved, you may want to consider a continuing application before the parent patent is granted. This will weed out any competitors trying to design their own inventions around your parent patent claims.

Also, don't feel pressured to secure a priority date. In doing so, you might fail to consider everything that needs to be claimed in your application. For example, the priority date will remain important because it determines when your legal rights will begin. Note that the continuation patent application will have the same priority date as the parent patent application.

Filing a continuation is one way to turn a single patent application into multiple patents. It's likely that each continuation will increase the strength of your patent portfolio and potentially avoid additional expenses.

Child and Parent Application Terminology

Child and parent patent applications require a fairly technical set of terms. Three important terms to note are:

  • Specification
  • Claims
  • Priority Date

A specification is a narrative. It will often include drawings that detail what the artist needs to know in order to create the invention. The specification is likely to include elements that aren't included in the invention.

The claims should be presented after the specification. It's best to devise these in a loose, abstract language that explains the unique, nonobvious elements of the invention.

Lastly, all patent applications will come with a priority date. This is the date upon which the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) received your application.

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