U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office

The U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office, also referred to as USPTO, is a federal agency that grants U.S. patents, along with registered trademarks. The USPTO is also responsible for processing all related applications and providing such information to the general public.

USPTO: An Overview

The USPTO was established in 1790 by the U.S. Constitution to protect U.S. inventions and other intellectual property by registering trademarks and issuing patents to help foster entrepreneurial spirit. Its main role is to review such patent and trademark applications and determine which ones are deemed appropriate for protection. Thereafter, all information regarding patents and trademarks are stored on the USPTO database so people searching for trademarks and patents can find them.

The USPTO falls under the Department of Commerce and is mandated by Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution. New products are being invented to this day, along with new uses for old inventions, which is why it is so important for such inventions to be protected. The strength of the U.S. economy relies on such innovative approaches, and the USPTO determines which inventions can further our nation’s technological achievement.

The USPTO also advises U.S. government agencies on intellectual property issues, enforcement related to such issues, and protection of one’s intellectual property rights, i.e., patent infringement. The USPTO provides training and educational resources to several agencies worldwide to help encourage the development of strong IP policies and laws.

Today, the USPTO has a timeframe of approximately three years to issue a patent, which will then last 20 years from the date of filing. While the USPTO has three years, many criticize this time frame as those wanting patent protection can run into several problematic issues during the time the patent is pending review by the USPTO examiners.

Authority, Role, and Facts About the USPTO

  • The USPTO examines and reviews patent applications in order to determine whether or not the applicants are entitled to protection of their invention under the law.
  • Since its inception in 1790, the USPTO has issued more than 8 million patents.
  • The USPTO has a search database wherein you can search for prior issued patents, generally on or after November 29, 2000.
  • The USPTO also supplies copies of documents and records pertaining to those prior issued patents.
  • The USPTO has no authority over patent infringement issues or enforcement of a patent infringement lawsuit.
  • In order to review the many patent applications that come in, the applications are divided among several examining technology centers, each one having jurisdiction over a specific technological industry. Each department is run by directors and staffed by examiners and support staff, who all take part in reviewing the patent applications.
  • If a patent application is denied, you can appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals.
  • The USPTO also handles interference issues, which occur when two (2) patent applications seek protection over the same invention. It is up to the examiners at the USPTO to determine who has the exclusive right to that invention.
  • Certain offices at the USPTO are in charge of receiving new applications and dividing those applications to the respective examining technology centers. Other departments within the USPTO merely handle illustrations submitted with patent applications. And some departments make copies of patent records and upload onto the USPTO server.
  • The USPTO employs over 6,500 employees.
  • Over 350,000 patent applications are received every year.
  • The USPTO even receives over 5 million mailings annually.
  • From 2002 to 2012, the USPTO spent approximately $4.88 billion on more than 18,000 transactions, which includes money spent on printing materials, administrative support, managing support, and telecommunications.
  • The average salary for patent examiners employed with the USPTO was $83,000; junior patent examiners earn roughly $80,000 and primary patent examiners earn $125,000.
  • The USPTO can charge international fees for activities provided via the Patent Cooperation Treaty. 

If you need help with learning more about how to apply for a patent or trademark or need help navigating the USPTO website, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.