You’ve filed your patent application and want to check its status or the status of a competitor’s patent or patent application. Or maybe you’re conducting a patent search and want up-to-date information for applications and patents. In either situation, here’s how.
The first thing to do is determine whether the application has published. The default rule in the United States is that patent applications are published at least 18 months after the earliest filing date. There are exceptions to this rule, however. For example, if you request non-publication or if the application is subject to a government secrecy order, then the USPTO will not publish the application. Non-publication is not allowed if you seek foreign patent protection.
1. Your Application Has Not Published
If your patent application has not published, you’ll have to ask your attorney for a status update on your application. When checking the status of your application, your attorney will likely access private PAIR. Private PAIR is a Patent Application Retrieval Portal provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that provides secure real-time access to unpublished applications and it allows authorized users to view the current status of an application as well as other application information (described below) via the internet. To access Private PAIR, you must be registered with the USPTO, and then only can you view applications to which you are approved.
2. Your Application Has Published
If your application has published, you can check the status of your application using Public PAIR.
Public PAIR is a portal provided by the USPTO that offers online access to the file history and status of patents and published applications. The file history, or file wrapper, is a record of all communications with the USPTO regarding a patent application, which can be downloaded.
Unlike Private PAIR, Public PAIR does not require registration with the USPTO. To access Public PAIR, all you need is a patent, application, publication, or PCT number that you want to search.
A. Logging into Public PAIR
FIG. 1 shows the public PAIR portal. You can access Public PAIR with this link, http://portal.uspto.gov/pair/PublicPair. Once there, the portal will ask you to verify that you’re not a robot by selecting “I’m not a robot” and performing the action requested by the reCAPTHCHA.
B. Entering the Document Identification Number
FIG. 2 shows a page that includes a “Select New Case” tab. You must enter one of the following document identifying numbers in the search box:
- Patent application number
- Control number
- Patent number
- PCT number
- Publication number
Select the option for the document identification number you will enter, enter the number in the search box, and press the “Search” button.
The webpage explains what these numbers are and in which formats users can input them correctly. After entering a correctly formatted number, the system will display the record if it is accessible to the public.
As shown in FIG. 2, I selected the patent number option and entered 10000000 in the search box to retrieve the file history of U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000.
To look up your own published patent application, make a note of the application number, select the application number option, enter your application number in the search box, and select the “Search” button.
C. Application Data Tabs
Once a record has been accessed, a number of tabs of data can be accessed. Below we’ll go over those tabs in more detail and the data that can be accessed.
Application Data Tab
FIG. 3 includes a view of the Application Data tab, which shows the bibliographic data of the application such as the application number, status, publication number, examiner name, class/subclass, inventor, and title among other such data.
Continuity Data Tab
FIG. 4 includes a view of the Continuity Data tab, which shows information about related patents or patent applications. The Continuity Data tab is optional, and its appearance depends on whether the application record has any parent or child continuity data.
In this example, downstream from U.S. Patent 10,000,000 is a PCT Application (PCT/US16/19088) and a child application (15/887,842), both of which claim priority to application (14/643,719) which resulted in U.S. Patent 10,000,000.
Transaction History Tab
FIG. 5 includes a view of the Transaction History tab, which shows a chronological list of transactions during the prosecution as well as the date on which they occurred. The list consists of items filed by the applicant and internal events at the USPTO associated with the application. The transaction history does not provide links to documents. Links to the documents can be found in the Image File Wrapper tab.
The transaction history can show you internal events at the USPTO related to the application that do not show up as filed documents in the Image File Wrapper tab. For example, as shown below on 05/22/2018, dispatch to FDC occurred. However, this dispatch notation is not found in the Image File Wrapper tab.
File Wrapper Tab
FIG. 6 includes a view of the File Wrapper tab, which shows all the documents filed by the applicant or issued by the USPTO for the application. In this tab, you can download the documents filed for the application in PDF format, by selecting the corresponding check-box and selecting the “PDF” icon at the top right. Some of the documents include fee worksheets, applicant submitted claims, list of references, issue information, non-final office actions, and final office actions.
FIG. 7 includes a view ofthe Fees tab. For utility patents, patent maintenance fees must be paid at 3 1/2, 7 1/2, and 11 1/2 years after the patent issues. If a patent has issued, you can select the Fees tab, where you are taken to the USPTO maintenance fee page.
You will have to enter the patent number and the corresponding application number to view maintenance fee information. In this example, the patent number is 10000000, and the corresponding application number is 14643719. By clicking “Continue,” a window similar to the one in FIG. 8 will be displayed.
The USPTO provides the deadline for paying the 3 1/2, 7 1/2, and 11 1/2 maintenance fees. The widow when a payment can be made opens six months before the 3 1/2, 7 1/2, and 11 1/2 year date. The USPTO charges a surcharge for payments made during the six month grace period, which begins the day after the 3 1/2, 7 1/2, and 11 1/2 year date. The USPTO will not accept payments 6 months after the 3 1/2, 7 1/2, and 11 1/2 year date.
Published Documents Tab
FIG. 9 includes a view of the Published Documents tab, which shows a list of publications related to application 14/643,719. The list consists of the publication and corresponding publication number and patent number, if available. The publications are listed with links to view the full-text and images of the publication as well as access to their respective PAIR entries.
Address & Attorney Agent Tab
FIG. 10 includes a view of the Address & Attorney/Agent tab, which shows the correspondence address for the attorney prosecuting the case as well as the other attorney/agents involved in the case.
FIG. 11 includes a view of the Assignments tab, which shows assignment information related to application 14/643,719. During the examination of a patent application or after a patent is granted, the owner of the patent may change. For example:
- The original owner may transfer ownership to another entity or party, through an “assignment”
- The original owner may retain ownership but change its name
The original owner should record the assignment or name change with the USPTO’s Assignment Recordation Branch. If recorded, assignment information for a change in ownership or an assignment is recorded in the assignment tab.
Display References Tab
FIG. 11 includes a view of the Display References tab which shows references (e.g., patents, patent applications, publications, etc.) cited by the examiner. This is a subset of the documents downloadable from the Image File Wrapper tab. For copyright reasons, the NPL is not downloadable.
Public PAIR provides up-to-date, detailed information about published applications and patents. This information is useful for someone to conduct a patent search or anyone who wants to check the status of their patent application or wants to learn more about an existing patent or published application.