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How long does it take to obtain a patent?

You’re interested in obtaining a patent, but wondering how long the process takes. Here’s information on the length of the process, what happens if you need to abandon a patent, and whether patents are kept secret during the patent prosecution process.

How long does it take to obtain a patent?

The timing of patent prosecution can vary significantly depending on the number of communications with the examiner. The goal of the USPTO is to issue the first Office Action within 14 months of the application filing date, and subsequent Office Actions within four months of each response submitted by the applicant. However, these times are often longer due to a backlog of applications at the USPTO.

The extent of delay can be affected by the nature of the invention due to varied workload levels in different technology areas at the USPTO. The issuance of a patent can be further delayed if the applicant decides to appeal a final decision relating to some or all of the claims. The appeal process can last for several years.

In some instances, the examination process can be expedited such that a patent may be issued within a year from its filing date. If such expedited processing is of interest, you should consult your patent attorney to determine what steps should be taken.

If I abandon a patent application before it issues, can I reinstate it later?

If you have abandoned an application intentionally, your application is considered abandoned and cannot be resurrected. An application can only be resurrected if it went abandoned due to an unintentional or unavoidable failure to respond to a USPTO communication or pay a fee in a timely manner. Under some circumstances, claims in an abandoned application may be pursued in a related application.

Does the USPTO keep patent applications secret while they are pending?

All utility patent applications filed after November 29, 2000 are published—and available to the public—18 months after the priority date (in some cases earlier) unless the applicant requests non-publication and agrees not to file any foreign applications. Non-published patent applications are maintained in the strictest confidence until the patent issues.

What is the “priority date” of a patent application?

An application’s priority date is the date it was submitted to the USPTO or, if an application claims priority to one or more earlier-filed applications, its priority date is the filing date of the earliest application to which priority can be correctly claimed. The priority date is significant, in part, because it is the date used to establish what prior art is considered in determining an invention’s patentability.

Interested in learning more? Visit our patent page.