The U.S. Patent System Part 4: Patent Pending, but for how long?

About the U.S. Patent system, how long it takes to process a patent application and what patent pending means.

The U.S. Patent System Today

How long will the patent take? Then what? The process will take about 2 years. Then you are on your own as far as marketing the invention goes. If some patent-promotion organizations approach you, check them out with your Better Business Bureau or your State Bureau or Office of Commerce and Industry. The Patent Office has no authority to review or report on such organizations. (There are plenty of shady outfits that look to make money off you, not your invention.)

You can obtain marketing information and assistance from banks, chambers of commerce, trade associations, and from the district offices of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or of the Small Business Administration.

The one thing the Patent Office can do--which can be valuable--is to publish at your expense (currently $3.00) a notice in the Official Gazette (a weekly of the Patent Office available by subscription from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office) that your patent is available for licensing or sale. It can be read by potentially interested parties throughout the world.

"Patent Pending" must not be faked. The words "Patent Pending" on an invention or design, or "Trademark Applied For" on a mark, have no legal standing. They are just notices to others that you are trying to get a patent or trademark. The U.S. Patent Office has no authority or means of extending any protection in advance of a patent. A person who thinks he can scare infringers away by simply printing "Patent Pending" or "Applied For"--but doesn't actually apply for the patent or trademark--can get himself in trouble. Falsely using "Patent Pending" is against the law and punishable by fine.

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