What Is the Patent Status?

Checking the patent status of your patent application, which is typically a utility patent, is easy through the United States (U.S.) Patent Office and Trademark Office (USTPO) system. Patents for inventions under review by the USPTO carry a patent pending status until the USPTO grants a patent.

How to Check Patent Status

Patent status is available through the Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system. PAIR gives access to:

  • The status of issued patents
  • The status of patent applications
  • Documents related to patent applications

Available documents include the application, communications from the USPTO, and information on related patents.

A private PAIR system can be used for patent lawyers. Private PAIR lets lawyers see details of applications they've filed.

PAIR doesn't publish all patent applications. Applications are confidential for 18 months after filing. Some applications may stay confidential after 18 months. Applications for design patents, provisional applications, and applications subject to secrecy orders can't be accessed on PAIR.

How to Use PAIR

Access PAIR through the USPTO website. To find patent status on PAIR, enter the patent information under "Select New Case."

Here's what information you can find in PAIR:

  • Bibliographic Data
    • Basic information such as application number, filing date, inventor, patent status, invention title, and patent issue date and number

  • Image File Wrapper
    • Documents filed by the applicant or the Patent Office. Most documents can be downloaded. Some, known as non-patent literature, can't be downloaded. Documents that predate 2003 aren't available on PAIR.

  • Continuity
    • Information about related patents and applications

  • Fees
    • Information on fees due. Patent fees are due 3 1/2 years, 7 1/2 years, and 11 1/2 years after a patent is issued. Payments must be made within six months before or after the due date. Payments made after the due date are subject to extra fees.

  • Published Documents
    • Documents related to the application.

  • Address and Attorney
    • Mailing address for the patent holder and information on the patent lawyer.

  • Display References
    • Prior art references including patents, applications, and publications.

Why Is the Patent Status Important?

You want to know where your patent application stands as it journeys through the USPTO. 

After you submit a patent application to the USPTO, your invention carries a patent pending status. Patent pending status begins the date you file your patent application. Patent pending ends when the USPTO grants the patent or you abandon your application.

Both provisional and non-provisional patent applications can have patent pending status.

  • Provisional applications are applications you can file before a patent application. Provisional applications can't become a granted patent and expire after one year.
  • Non-provisional patent applications are applications that can lead to a patent. USPTO review of patent applications takes an average of 21 months.

Patent pending status gives you priority in receiving a patent for your invention. The United States is a first-to-file country. In other words, the first person to file a patent application for an invention receives the patent. If you abandon an application, you lose first-to-file rights.

Patent pending status lets you market your invention with less risk of theft. Patent pending status doesn't give legal protection. However, it does deter theft of ideas.

  • Others are less likely to copy a patent pending invention, because copying could lead to a lawsuit if you receive your patent.
  • Patent pending status deters similar applications, because the first applicant has first-to-file rights.

How Does Patent Status Protect Inventions?

Patent pending status gives an inventor rights after the patent is granted.

You can legally copy, produce, and sell a patent-pending invention. However, you can sue copiers for royalties upon patent approval. Royalties are payments you receive when others use your patented invention. Provisional rights are your rights to sue for royalties dating to the time before a patent's issue date.

Provisional rights are difficult to enforce. Royalty claims are subject to these rules:

  • Royalties can't be sought until after a patent's issue date.
  • Royalties start on the date a copier learned of a published application.
  • The copier must know of the patent application. You should give the patent application to the copier. Sending notice establishes the date the copier learned of the application.
  • The granted patent can't be much different from the application, which can be difficult given that most patent applications will undergo changes before a product receives its patent.

If someone copies your invention while its patent status is pending, you can:

  • Ask the USPTO to speed up your application review.
  • Ask the copier to stop making or selling the invention.
  • Let the copier continue making or selling the invention. A copier may create a demand for your invention, which can allow you to more easily market your invention.

In some cases, you can file other claims against a copier. Talk to a patent lawyer to find out if you have a legal case against a copier.

How Is Patent Status Marked?

If your invention's status is patent pending, you should mark the status on your product, its packaging, and its marketing materials. Patent-pending marks can take several forms:

  • "Patent pending" or "U.S. patent pending"

  • "Patents pending," if you have multiple applications for an invention

  • "Patent applied for" or "U.S. patent applied for"

  • "U.S. and foreign patents applied for" or "patent applied for in the U.S. and abroad" if you're applying in multiple countries

All of these terms mean you have applied for a patent, but a patent hasn't yet been granted.

What Is a Provisional Patent Application?

You can file a provisional patent application (PPA) before a regular patent application. A PPA can't become a granted patent, but it offers some benefits.

A PPA gives first-to-file rights to an invention for a year. If you file a patent application within a year, you can claim rights to the patent dating back to the PPA. If another inventor applies for a patent after your PPA, you have first rights to the patent. Those rights are lost if you don't file a patent application within a year.

Another benefit of PPAs is that they don't affect when your patent expires. You can extend the life of your patent for up to a year.

You don't have to file a PPA before you file a patent application, but the PPA filing is a smart step. PPAs are cheaper and need less information than patent applications. A PPA requires a:

  • Description of the invention

  • Description of how to make and use the invention

  • Informal drawings

  • One-page cover sheet

  • $75 fee for small companies or $150 for large companies (the $75 fee requires a Small-Entity Declaration)

Unlike patent applications, PPAs don't require an abstract, a Patent Application Declaration, or an Information Disclosure Statement. These three forms are required for patent applications.

  • Abstract: a summary of the invention and its use

  • Patent Application Declaration: a statement that notes you are the original inventor

  • Information Disclosure Statement: all publications, patents, and background information related to the invention (background information may reveal prior art, evidence that an invention already exists)

What is a PCT Application?

Inventors can also apply for a PCT, or an international patent application. A PCT lets you file a patent application in several countries with the same application.

What Happens When a Patent Is Granted?

Once the USPTO issues a patent, the patent status is no longer pending. Your invention can no longer be produced or sold without your consent. You should mark a patented invention with "patented" and the patent number instead of "patent pending."

A patent protects your invention for a set amount of time. How long a patent lasts depends on the type of patent:

  • Utility patents typically last for 20 years. These patents cover the functional parts of an invention.

  • Design patents last for 14 years. These patents cover the design or appearance of an invention.

Filing an application doesn't always mean the USPTO will grant the patent. The USPTO may deny an application if it doesn't meet patent requirements. Patents are denied for inventions that aren't new or that are obvious. An obvious invention is one that makes a simple improvement on an existing invention. To maximize the odds of your patent being granted, you should consult with a patent attorney to draft your application.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I use patent pending status while preparing to file an application?

No. Patent pending status can only be used when:

  1. You've filed an application
  2. The USPTO issues an Office Action in the last six months. Office Actions tell you about problems with your application.
  3. You have Notice of Allowance, but the patent isn't granted yet. Notice of Allowance tells an applicant that their patent is approved and indicates fees due.

You can't use patent pending status for:

  • A patent application you haven't submitted
  • An issued patent
  • An abandoned patent application

Illegal use of patent pending status carries a fine of more than $500.

  • How long does patent pending status last?

Patent status is typically pending for one to three years, but it can be longer. Patent pending status lasts until the application is either approved by the USPTO or abandoned by the inventor.

  • Can I protect my invention without applying for a patent?

Some inventors protect their ideas by carefully documenting the building and testing process. This way, they can show ownership if someone else claims the invention. However, this method is less secure than filing a patent application.

Get Help

Applying for a patent is a complicated and lengthy process. For help applying for a patent and understanding patent status, you can post your legal need here to get free custom quotes from the top 5% of lawyers from UpCounsel with an average of 14 years of experience. UpCounsel attorneys offer expertise at affordable prices that are up to 60% less than a traditional law firm.