Patent Application Number Versus Publication Number

Also called the patent's serial number, patent applications all receive an application number from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If the application is approved and the invention is officially patented, the patent will have a full patent number.

Application numbers follow this format: XX/XXX,XXX with a forward slash after the first two digits. The full patent number follows this format: X,XXX,XXX. If a patent is published, it will also receive a publication number with the following format XXXX/XXXXXXX.

On an official U.S. patent cover, the format of the patent number would also have a letter and number at the end, for example: US 7,493,599 C2.

What Is a Patent Publication?

A patent publication looks similar to the patent itself, but they also reflect the original patent application document. The publication number, notes the year of publication. For a patent that has the publication number 2013/9304893, its publication is the year 2013. The seven-digit number after the forward slash is unique and doesn't reflect the patent or application number. The purpose of all of these different numbers is to keep the many patents in their different stages well-organized. The U.S. Patent Office (USPTO) assigns these numbers as they choose.

Not every patent application is published, some inventors may choose to not have their application published. This is an option during the original filing of the application. If the box for not publishing the application is left unchecked, the USPTO will publish the application 18 months after the application is filed.

Once a patent application is published, a PDF version of the application and the filed documents will be made available. On the patent publication date, the patent becomes publicly available and no longer confidential. This means that anyone who searches for the patent can read its specifications and claims and can keep up with the status of the patent to see when it is officially granted by the State.

Patents haven't always been published, but the American Inventors Act of 1999 started the publication practice with the first patent application published in 2001. Before patent applications were published, people couldn't learn about patents until they were officially issued. Even though the publication of patents is very common, some inventors do choose to forego this part of the process and kept their patents a secret until they're issued.

If your patent is in the process of being approved but hasn't been published, it's a bad idea to include your application number on a resume or any other public document. When you include the application number on a document, it is basically useless if the patent application isn't published because no one can view it.

What Is a WO Patent?

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) grants WO patents. Patent law protects these types of patents across all countries in the United Nations. For patents to receive protection beyond just the United States, or whichever country the patent is in, it is more complicated and expensive to obtain individual patents in each country. The WO patent is a great option for countries that want to expand and have their patents recognized internationally.

The Patent Cooperation Treaty is kept in practice by the WIPO. This treaty provides a simpler process for inventors to follow in order to file patent applications over the countries that participate in the treaty. The U.S., China, and some European countries are part of the Patent Cooperation Treaty making up a total of 184 countries that are members of the group.

WIPO offers several helpful tools for inventors hoping to obtain a patent. This organization can provide advice and information about invention patentability and requirements.

Filing a patent application in one of the states that are members of the WIPO and the Patent Cooperation Treaty, gives the patent an automatic preservation for one year for filing in any of the other states that are also members. This allows people a chance to apply for patents one at a time in multiple countries.

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