In filing a patent application and paying required fees, the USPTO provides forms and an electronic filing tool. You may also wish to find a patent attorney or agent to help draft the required description of the invention and claims, and any required drawings.This page provides information on the types of patents and types of patent applications, and the examination process. It also covers how to conduct a preliminary search and find registered patent practitioners to help with your application. We also walk you through how to file your application electronically or by mail. Search for patents and prior artYou may make a preliminary search of patents and other publications to discover if a particular invention or one similar to it has been shown in prior art. You may also consider employing patent attorneys or agents to do the search.This search may not be as complete as ours when examining an application, but it only serves, as its name indicates, a preliminary purpose. The patent examiner may, and often does, reject claims in an application based on information not found in the preliminary search. Each individual associated with processing a patent application has a duty to disclose all information, including any prior art, known to be material to patentability.We suggest a six-step strategy for preliminary searches of U.S. patents and published applications, using free online resources from us and our international partners. The Patent Public Search tool and Inventor Search Assistant are web-based search tools.The six stepsBrainstorm description terms for your invention based on its purpose, composition, and use.For utility applications, use these description terms to find relevant Cooperative Patent Classifications (CPC) using the Classification Text Search Tool.Verify CPC classification by reviewing related definitions.Retrieve published application documents and actual U.S. patents using relevant classification resources and our Patent Public Search Tool.Review each relevant document in depth for similarity to your invention.Include non-U.S. patent databases or non-patent literature to find more relevant documents. WIPO search tools include PatentScope and the Global Design Database for designs.Other search resourcesScientific and Technical Information Center (STIC)The USPTO STIC, in Alexandria, Virginia, offers to the public more than 120,000 volumes of scientific and technical books in various languages. STIC also holds about 90,000 bound volumes of science and technology periodicals, the official journals of 77 foreign patent organizations, and more than 40 million foreign patents on paper and electronically. The center is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays (except federal holidays).Public Search FacilityThe Public Search Facility, also at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, is where you may search for and examine U.S. patents granted since 1790 using state-of-the-art technology. Publications, manuals, online databases, and other search aids are available. Resources include patent ownership records.Public workstations provide access to public electronic patent and trademark collections. The public search room enables you to conduct self-directed searches.The facility is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays except on federal holidays. Research assistance is offered 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, with self-service access from 5-8 p.m.Regional officesUSPTO regional offices have many public workstations with the same requirements and resources as at the Public Search Facility. Public searching is available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, except federal holidays. Here are the regional offices:Texas Regional Office (Dallas, Texas)Rocky Mountain Regional Office (Denver, Colorado)Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office (Detroit, Michigan)Silicon Valley USPTO (San Jose, California)Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs)PTRCs are a nationwide network of public, state, and academic libraries with resources to help you protect your intellectual property. Collections include current issues of U.S. patents along with earlier patents and trademarks. The scope of the collections varies, ranging from only recent patents to most of those issued since 1790. Attorneys and agentsPreparing a patent application and conducting the proceedings requires knowledge of patent law, USPTO rules and procedures, and scientific or technical knowledge related to the particular invention. While you may prosecute the application without these skills, you might not get all the protection you can without an experienced attorney/agent’s help. So we suggest you hire a registered patent practitioner to draft and prosecute your application.The USPTO registers both patent attorneys and non-attorneys called "patent agents" for permission to prepare and prosecute patent applications. When you appoint an attorney or agent, the USPTO does not communicate with you directly, but instead with the attorney or agent.In employing a patent attorney or agent, you execute a power of attorney, filed and made of record in the application file. You may contact the USPTO concerning the status of your application, and remove the attorney or agent at any time by revoking the power of attorney. MPEP § 400 provides more information on power of attorney, naming a representative, and corresponding with us regarding a patent application.More information on attorneys and agentsThe USPTO has legal authority to regulate the conduct and recognition of patent attorneys and agents. Those not recognized by the USPTO for this practice are prohibited from representing inventors before the agency.Patent agents, however, cannot argue patent cases in courts or perform services considered by local jurisdictions as practicing law. For example, a patent agent cannot draw up a patent-related contract, such as for an assignment or a license, if the agent’s state of residence considers drafting contracts as the practice of law.The USPTO maintains a register of patent attorneys and agents. To be admitted to this register, attorneys and agents must comply with USPTO regulations requiring good moral character and reputation, as well as certain legal, scientific, and technical qualifications. Some qualifications must be demonstrated by passing an exam. Admission to the exam requires a college degree in engineering or physical science, or its equivalent.Directories of patent attorneys can be found both in print and online, and from the agency. Many large cities have associations of such attorneys. The USPTO cannot recommend or aid in selecting a patent attorney or agent, as by stating, in response to inquiry, that an attorney, agent, or firm is “reliable” or “capable.”The USPTO has the power to disbar, or suspend from practicing before it, attorneys and agents guilty of gross misconduct. This can only be done after a full hearing, with clear and convincing evidence of misconduct presented. The USPTO will receive and (as appropriate) act upon complaints against attorneys and agents.Fees charged to you by attorneys and agents for their professional services are not regulated by the USPTO. Definite evidence of overcharging may prompt USPTO action, but the agency rarely intervenes in fee disputes.Some unregistered individuals and organizations advertise patent search services, and invention marketing and development. They cannot represent you before the USPTO and are not subject to agency discipline, but a public forum for complaints is available. Most inventors employ the services of registered patent practitioners. Inventors and small businesses meeting certain financial and other criteria may be eligible for free legal assistance in preparing and filing a patent application. The Patent Pro Bono Program, a nationwide network of independently operated regional programs, matches volunteer patent professionals with financially underresourced inventors and small businesses to provide them with patent protection services. Each regional program serves residents of one or more states.Types of patents There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant. Utility and plant patent applications can be provisional and nonprovisional. Provisional applications may not be filed for design inventions. Utility patentsThese may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers a new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvements of these.The elements of a nonprovisional utility application, if applicable, should appear in the following order:Application transmittal form (access form)Fee transmittal form (access form)Application data sheet (more details)Specification (more details below) Drawings (more details below)Executed oath or declaration (more details below)For more detail, see A Guide to Filing a Utility Patent Application.Details about utility patent specificationThe specification of a nonprovisional utility patent application should have the following sections in order:Title of the invention — should be as short and specific as possible (no more than 500 characters), should appear as a heading on the first page of the specification (if not otherwise appearing at the beginning of the application).Cross-reference to related application, if any (may be listed on a data sheet, either instead of or along with being listed in the specification).Statement of federally sponsored research or development (if any) — for an invention made with U.S. government support and for which the U.S. government has certain rights, 35 U.S.C. 202(c)(6) and 37 CFR 401.14(f)(4) require the specification to contain a statement that the invention was made with such support. Here’s a sample wording: “This invention was made with government support under [identify the contract] awarded by [identify the federal agency]. The government has certain rights in the invention.”Names of the parties to a joint research agreement, if the claimed invention resulted from activities within the scope of such an agreement.Reference to a “sequence listing,” table, or computer program listing appendix submitted on an optical disc or via the USPTO electronic filing system and an incorporation by reference of the material on the optical disc. The total number of discs, including duplicates and the files on each disc, must be specified.Background on the invention.Brief summary of the invention — indicating its nature and substance (which may include a statement of the object of the invention), preceding the detailed description. The summary should be commensurate with the invention as claimed, and any object recited should be that of the invention as claimed.Brief description of views of the drawing (if any) — a description of the drawing views by specifying the numbers of the figures.Detailed description of the invention — description of the invention including the manner and process of its making and use;Required in full, clear, concise, and exact terms so that anyone skilled in the technology area to which the invention belongs or is most nearly connected to, can make and use it.Set forth the precise invention for which a patent is requested, distinguishing it from other inventions and from what is old. It must describe completely a specific embodiment of the process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or improvement invented; and must explain the best mode of carrying out the invention.For an improvement, the specification must point out the part(s) of the process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter to which the improvement relate(s). The description should be confined to the specific improvement and to the parts that necessarily cooperate with it or are necessary to a complete understanding or description.At least one claim — particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter regarded as the invention. The portion of the application setting forth the claims defines the scope of the patent protection and which questions of infringement are judged by the courts.More than one claim may be presented (they must differ substantially and not unduly multiplied). One or more claims may be presented in dependent form, referring back to and further limiting other claims in the same application. Any dependent claim referring back to more than one other claim is called a “multiple dependent claim.”Multiple dependent claims shall refer to such other claims in the alternative only. A multiple dependent claim shall not serve as a basis for another multiple dependent claim. Claims in dependent form will be understood to include all limitations of the claim referenced by the dependent claim. A multiple dependent claim will be considered to incorporate all the limitations of each of the particular claims in relation to which it is being considered.The claims must conform to the invention as set forth in the rest of the specification, and any wording in the description must be clearly supported so that their meaning may be understood in reference to the description.Brief abstract of the disclosure — must appear on a separate page (preferably following the claims), should be a single paragraph (150 words or less) under the heading “Abstract of the Disclosure.”Sequence listing (if any).Details about utility patent drawingsDrawings are required to be filed when necessary to understand the subject matter of the patent sought. This generally includes all inventions except compositions of matter or processes, though drawings may be useful with many processes.The drawing must show every feature of the invention specified in the claim, and is required to be in a particular form. For specific details about drawing standards, including numbering, margins, views, legends, and shading, see MPEP § 608.02 and 37 CFR 1.84.Two generally acceptable categories exist for presenting drawings in utility and design patent applications:Black-and-white drawings are normally required. India ink, or an equivalent that secures solid black lines, must be used.Color drawings are permitted in design applications. On rare occasions, color may be necessary in utility applications as the only practical method to disclose the intended subject matter. The quality of color drawings must be sufficient for reproduction in black-and-white in the printed patent.The specification must also include a brief description of each drawing.Additional details about drawingsThe USPTO specifies the size of the sheet, type of paper, margins, and other details about the making of the drawing. The detailed standards are necessary because the drawings are printed and published in a uniform style when the patent is issued, and must be readily understood by those using the descriptions.Drawing sheets should be numbered in consecutive Arabic numerals, starting with 1, within sight (the usable surface). For regular, nonprovisional utility applications, these “sheets” should be filed electronically with other application documents via Patent Center or EFS-Web.These numbers must be placed in the middle of the top of the sheet, not in the margin. They can be placed on the right-hand side if the drawing extends too close to the middle of the top edge of the usable surface. To avoid confusion, the numbering must be clear and larger than the numbers used as reference characters.The number of each sheet should be shown by two Arabic numerals placed on either side of an oblique line, the first being the sheet number and the second being the total number of sheets of drawings, with no other marking.Identifying indicia, if provided, should include the title of the invention, the inventor’s name, the application number (if known), and docket number (if any). This information should be placed on the top margin of each sheet of drawings. No names or other identification will be permitted within “sight” of the drawing. The name and telephone number of a person to call if the USPTO is unable to match the drawings to the proper application may also be provided.Drawings are to be initially filed with the rest of your application and can be submitted electronically using tools such as Patent Center and EFS-Web, or via certified mail. They will be reviewed to ensure compliance to USPTO rules and that they accurately show the invention described. Any issues will be communicated to you for correction.Photographs, including photocopies, are not ordinarily permitted in utility and design patent applications. They will only be permitted if they are the only practical medium for illustrating the claimed invention. Color photographs will be accepted if the conditions for accepting color drawings and black-and-white photographs have been satisfied.Details about utility patent executed oaths or declarationsAn oath or declaration is a formal statement you must make in a design, plant, nonprovisional utility, or reissue application. Either form PTO/AIA/01 or PTO/AIA/08 may be used for the required declaration in a utility application. We prefer form PTO/AIA/01, which must be filed together with an application data sheet.You must sign an oath or declaration including certain statements required by law and USPTO rules, including a statement of belief that you are the original or joint inventor of a claimed invention, and a statement that you either made the application or authorized its making (see 35 U.S.C. 115 and 37 CFR 1.63). An oath must be sworn to before a notary public. A declaration may be submitted in lieu of an oath, and does not need notarization.Additional detailsMPEP § 602 explains the requirements to file an oath or declaration. It also explains that in addition to the required statements, the oath or declaration must establish your legal name, mailing address, and residence if not provided already in the application.In lieu of an oath or declaration, you may sign a substitute statement with respect to an inventor who is deceased, legally incapacitated, cannot be found or reached after diligent effort, or has refused to execute the oath or declaration. When filing a continuing application, a copy of the oath or declaration filed in the earlier application may be used, as long as it complies with the appropriate rules.Declaration forms are available by accessing the USPTO forms webpage, indexed under “Inventor’s Oath or Declaration.” Translated declaration forms in select languages are available for applications filed on or after September 16, 2012, and can be found on the translated forms page. The AIA (America Invents Act) Inventor’s Oath or Declaration Quick Reference Guide is also available. Design patentsPatent laws provide for the granting of design patents to anyone who has invented a new, original ornamental design for an article of manufacture. The ornamental characteristics must be embodied in or applied to such an article. The subject matter may relate to the configuration or shape of an article, surface ornamentation applied to it, or the combination of both. A surface ornamentation design is inseparable from the article to which it is applied and cannot exist alone. It must be a definite pattern applied to an article of manufacture.The design patent protects only the appearance of an article, not its functional features. The proceedings relating to the granting of design patents are similar to those for other patents, with a few differences. See the current fee schedule for the appropriate filing, search, and examination fees.The elements of the design application, if applicable, should appear in this order:Design application transmittal form (access form)Fee transmittal form (access form)Application data sheet (see § 1.76) (more details)Specification (more details below)Drawings or photographs The inventor's oath or declaration (see § 1.153[b])Details about design patent specificationsThe specification of a design application is short, and only one claim is permitted, following a set form referring to the drawings. Specification should include the following sections in order:Preamble — stating your (the inventor’s) name, the title of the design, and a brief description of the nature and intended use of the article embodied by the designCross-reference to related applications (unless included in the application data sheet)Statement regarding federally sponsored research or developmentDescription(s) of the figure(s) of the drawingsFeature descriptionA single claim A design patent application may only include a single claim. It should normally be in formal terms to "the ornamental design for (the article which embodies the design or to which it is applied) as shown." The description of the article in the claim should be consistent in terminology with the title of the invention (see MPEP § 1503.01, subsection I).When the specification includes a proper descriptive statement of the design (see MPEP § 1503.01, subsection II), or a proper showing of modified forms of the design or other descriptive matter, the words "and described" must be added to the claim following the term "shown." In other words, the claim must read, "The ornamental design for (the article that embodies the design or to which it is applied) as shown and described."The drawing of the design patent conforms to the same rules as other drawings, except no reference characters are allowed. Also, the drawing should clearly depict the appearance, since the drawing defines the scope of patent protection. Plant patentsThe law also provides for the granting of a patent to anyone inventing or discovering and asexually reproducing any distinct and new variety of plant. This includes cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber-propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state.An application for a plant patent consists of the same parts as other applications. The term of a plant patent is 20 years from the application filing date in the United States, or if the application contains a specific reference to an earlier-filed application under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121 or 365(c), from the date the earliest such application was filed.The filing and issue fees on plant applications can be found in the fee schedule. For a qualifying small entity, most fees are cut by half (35 U.S.C. 41[h]). For a qualifying micro entity (37 CFR 1.29), most fees are reduced by 80%. Plant patent applications may be published pursuant to Title 35, U.S. Code, Section 122(b), but the fee is not reduced for small entities.A plant patent application is the only patent application type not permitted to be filed at the USPTO via EFS-Web.Asexually propagated plants are those reproduced by means other than from seeds, such as by the rooting of cuttings, layering, budding, grafting, inarching, etc.The Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO) provides intellectual property protection to breeders of new varieties of sexually reproduced, tuber propagated, and asexually reproduced plant varieties. With reference to tuber propagated plants, for which a plant patent cannot be obtained, the term "tuber" is used in its narrow horticultural sense as meaning a short, thickened portion of an underground branch. Such plants covered by the term "tuber propagated" are the Irish potato and the Jerusalem artichoke. This exception is made because this group alone, among asexually reproduced plants, is propagated by the same part of the plant that is sold as food. The genes, traits, and parts of a plant, as well as varieties, may also be protected with a utility patent.The elements of the plant application, if applicable, should appear in this order:Plant application transmittal form (access form)Fee transmittal form (access form)Application data sheet (see § 1.76) (more details)Specification (more details below)Drawings (in duplicate) (more details below)The inventor's oath or declaration (§ 1.162) (more details below)For more detail, see the publication General information about 35 U.S.C. 161 plant patents and MPEP § 1600.Details about plant patent specificationsThe specification should include a complete, detailed description of the plant and the characteristics distinguishing it from related known varieties, and its antecedents. These should be expressed in botanical terms in the general form followed in standard botanical texts covering the varieties of the kind of plant involved (evergreen tree, dahlia plant, rose plant, apple tree, etc.), rather than a mere broad non-botanical characterization such as commonly found in nursery or seed catalogs.In addition, the specification should include the origin (parentage) of the plant variety sought to be patented, and must identify where and in what manner the plant has been asexually reproduced. The Latin name of the genus and species should be stated.Where color is a distinctive feature of the plant, it should be identified by a designated color as given by a recognized color dictionary. Where the plant originated as a newly found seedling, the conditions (cultivation, environment, etc.) under which the seedling was found growing must be fully described, to establish it was not found in an uncultivated state.The plant patent specification should include these sections in order:Title of the invention, which may include an introduction stating your name, citizenship, and residenceCross-reference to related applications (unless included in the data sheet)Statement regarding federally-sponsored research or developmentLatin name of the genus and species of the plant claimedVariety denominationBackground of the inventionBrief summary of the inventionBrief description of the drawingDetailed botanical descriptionA single claimAbstract of the disclosureMore about a single claim for plant patent applicationA plant patent is granted only on the entire plant. Only one claim is necessary and permitted; a method claim is improper in a plant patent application.The claim shall be in formal terms to the new and distinct variety of the specified plant as described and illustrated, and may also recite the principal distinguishing characteristics. An example of a proper claim would be "[a] new and distinct variety of hybrid tea rose plant, substantially as illustrated and described herein."Details about plant patent drawingsPlant patent drawings are not mechanical drawings and should display artistic competence. The drawings must disclose all distinctive characteristics of the plant capable of visual representation. When color is a distinguishing characteristic, drawings must be in color, with applications filed on paper requiring two duplicate copies. The drawing should conform to the same rules as other drawings, except that view numbers and reference characters are unnecessary unless required by the examiner. All color drawings should include a 1-inch margin at the top for office marking.Specimens of the plant variety, and its flower or fruit, should not be submitted unless specifically requested by the examiner.Details about plant patent oath or declarationThe required oath or declaration and the statements required for other applications must include a statement that you, the inventor, have asexually reproduced the new plant variety. For a newly found plant, the oath or declaration must also state that the plant was found in a cultivated area. A Plant Patent Application Declaration, Form PTO/AIA/09 or PTO/AIA/03, may be used for a declaration. Types of patent applications Provisional applicationsProvisional applicationThis quick, inexpensive way for you to establish a U.S. filing date for your invention can be claimed in a later-filed nonprovisional application. A provisional application is automatically abandoned 12 months after its filing date and is not examined.If you decide to initially file a provisional application, you must file a corresponding nonprovisional application during the 12-month pendency period of the provisional in order to benefit from the earlier provisional filing. Provisionals have fewer requirements than non-provisionals — for example, claims and an oath/declaration are not required.For more detail, see Provisional Application for Patent and MPEP § 201.04.Additional details about provisional applicationsSince June 8, 1995, inventors have had the option of filing a provisional utility or plant patent application. This provides a lower-cost first patent filing in the United States and gives U.S. applicants parity with foreign applicants. A provisional helps establish an early effective filing date in a patent application and permits the term “Patent Pending” to be applied in connection with the invention.The filing date of a provisional application is when the USPTO receives a written description of the invention, and drawings if necessary. To be complete, provisionals must also include the filing fee, and a cover sheet or Application Data Sheet (ADS) specifying that the application is a provisional. You then have up to 12 months to file a nonprovisional application, as described above. The claimed subject matter in the later-filed nonprovisional application is entitled to the benefit of the filing date of the provisional application if it has support (sufficiently disclosed) in the provisional application.If a provisional application is not filed in English, and a nonprovisional is filed claiming benefit to the provisional, a translation of the provisional will be required — see 37 CFR 1.78(a)(5).A provisional application is not examined on its merits. It will automatically be abandoned 12 months after its filing date. The 12-month pendency for a provisional is not counted toward the 20-year term of a patent granted on a subsequently filed nonprovisional application that claims benefit of the provisional filing date.Submitting the basic filing fee or the cover sheet on a date later than the filing of the provisional application requires a surcharge. Unlike nonprovisional utility applications, design, plant, and provisional applications can still be mailed or hand-delivered without paying the additional $400 non-electronic filing fee, and can also be filed via EFS-Web.Nonprovisional applicationsNonprovisional utility applicationThis may be issued as a patent if all patentability requirements are met. A nonprovisional utility application includes:A specification (description and claims) Drawings (when necessary)An oath or declarationFiling, search, and examination feesAll application documents must be in English, or a translation into English will be required, along with a fee set in 37 CFR 1.17(i).For more detail, see A Guide to Filing a Utility Patent Application.Additional details about the specification in nonprovisional applicationsSpecification detailsThe specification must end with a claim or claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject regarded as the invention. The portion of the application setting forth your claim or claims defines the scope of the protection afforded by the patent. These must begin on a separate sheet.More than one claim may be presented, provided they differ. Claims may be presented in independent (the claim stands by itself) or dependent form, referring back to and further limiting another claim or claims in the same application. Any dependent claim referring back to more than one other claim is considered a “multiple dependent claim.”The application is not examined until all required parts, complying with related rules, are received. If any application is filed without all parts required for a filing date (incomplete or defective), you will be notified of what’s missing and given a deadline to complete the filing (a fee may be required). When you complete the submission, you will receive a filing date as of the date of completion.If the omission is not corrected by the deadline, the application will be returned or otherwise disposed. The filing fee, if submitted, will be refunded, minus a handling fee.The filing fee and declaration or oath do not need to be submitted with the parts required for a filing date. If an application that has received a filing date does not include the filing fee or the oath or declaration, you will be notified and given a deadline to pay the filing fee and a surcharge, and file the oath or declaration.All applications received are numbered in sequential order. Your filing receipt will include the application number and filing date.Each document must meet these specifications:Top margin of at least 2 cm (3/4 inch)Left margin of at least 2.5 cm (1 inch)Right margin of at least 2 cm (3/4 inch)Bottom margin of at least 2 cm (3/4 inch)No holes in submitted papersSpacing either 1.5 or double-spacedAll papers numbered consecutively (centrally located above or below the text), starting with Page 1Text written in a non-script font (examples include Arial, Times Roman, and Courier)Preferred 12-point font sizeLettering style: capitals at least 0.3175 cm (0.125 inch) high, but no smaller than 0.21 cm (0.08 inch) high (for example, font size 6)The specification must have only a single column of text. The application filing date, other than for design patents or provisional applications, is the date on which the USPTO receives a specification (with or without at least one claim) and any drawings necessary to understand the subject matter, or (with a previously incomplete or defective application) the date on which the last part required for a filing date is received.Publication of patent applicationsExcept in specific situations such as when an applicant has requested non-publication, utility and plant patent applications are published before a patent is granted. Publication occurs after the expiration of an 18-month period following the earliest effective filing date or priority date claimed by an application.Following publication, the application is no longer held in confidence by the USPTO, and anyone may request access to the entire file history of the application, and view the application on the USPTO website.More information on publication of applicationsPlant or utility applications filed on or after November 29, 2000 may, upon request, not be published. The invention must not have been or become the subject of an application filed in a foreign country requiring publication 18 months after filing (or earlier claimed priority date) or under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. If you filed a nonpublication request and later decide to file a counterpart foreign or international application in another country or under a multilateral agreement that requires 18-month publication, you must either rescind the nonpublication request before foreign or international filing, or notify the USPTO of such filing no later than 45 days after the filing date of the counterpart foreign or international application. Failure to do so will result in abandonment of the application.As a result of publication, you may assert provisional rights. These rights provide you with the opportunity to obtain a reasonable royalty from a third party that infringes a published application claim. You must notify the third party, and the patent must issue from the application with a substantially identical claim.Filing, search, and examination feesA patent application is subject to fees. Accepted payment methods include checks, credit/debit cards, or electronic fund transfers. To avoid a surcharge, submit the filing, search, and examination fees upon filing. An issue fee is required after an application is allowed and before granting of a patent. Fees are subject to change; consult the USPTO fee schedule for more detail.More informationAdditional fees will be required for more than 20 total claims or more than three independent claims on an application. Claims above these amounts are considered “excess claims.”For example, if you file 25 claims, including four independent claims, you would have to pay excess fees for five total claims and one independent claim. If you later file an amendment increasing the total claims to 29 and the independent claims to six, you would have to pay fees for the additional four total claims and two independent claims.In calculating fees, a claim is singularly dependent if it refers to a single preceding claim (either independent or dependent). A multiple dependent claim, or any claim dependent upon it, is considered separate dependent based on the number of claims it refers to. Applications with multiple dependent claims require additional fees for each claim. You may be entitled to discounted fees, depending upon qualification as a micro-entity or small entity. If you and any other rights holder in your invention qualify as a small entity under 37 CFR 1.27(a) as an independent inventor, small business concern, or nonprofit organization, most fees are reduced by half by claiming small entity status.Fees discounted cover filing, searching, examining, issuing, appealing, and maintaining patents and their applications.You must determine that small entity status is appropriate before asserting entitlement to such status. Note that electronic filing further lowers the filing fee.Fees are reduced by 80% for any micro-entity that certifies that the requirements under 37 CFR 1.29(a) or (d) are met.You must determine that micro-entity status is appropriate before filing the required certification and paying the 80-percent discounted fees. The patent forms webpage, indexed under “Forms, Patents,” has two micro-entity certification forms: PTO/SB/15A for certifying on the “gross income basis” under 37 CFR 1.29(a), and PTO/SB/15B for the “institution of higher education basis” under 37 CFR 1.29(d).Any regular nonprovisional utility application filed by postal mail or hand-delivery will require an additional $400 “non-electronic filing fee.” This is reduced by 60% (to $200) if you qualify for small entity status under 37 CFR 1.27(a) or micro-entity status under 37 CFR 1.29(a) or (d). The only way to avoid the additional $400 fee is by filing electronically. For more information, see A Guide to Filing a Utility Patent Application.Design, plant, and provisional applications are not subject to the additional fee and may be filed by postal mail or hand-delivery without it. Direct your questions regarding filing applications electronically to the Electronic Business Center at 866-217-9197.Models, exhibits, and specimensA working model, or other physical exhibit, is not ordinarily required, since the description of the invention in the specification and drawings must be full, clear, and complete enough to understand the invention without the aid of a model. A working model may be requested in applications for alleged perpetual motion devices.MPEP § 608.03 explains the requirements and handling of models, exhibits, and specimens. Unless required, a model may generally not be admitted to the prosecution record unless filed with a petition (and related fee), and an explanation why the model is necessary to demonstrate patentability.When the invention relates to a composition of matter, you may be required to furnish specimens, or its ingredients or intermediates, for inspection or experiment. Microbiological inventions require a deposit of the microorganism involved. If a model is not needed anymore, it may be returned to you, but at your expense.Examination of applications and proceedingsThe examination of patent applications is divided among various technology centers (TCs), each overseeing assigned fields of technology. Each TC is headed by group directors and staffed by examiners and support staff. The examiners review applications and determine whether patents can be granted.The examination consists of a study for compliance with legal requirements, along with a search through U.S. patents, publications of patent applications, foreign patent documents, and available literature. This is to see if the claimed invention is new, useful, and non-obvious, and if the application meets patent statute requirements and rules of practice. If the examiner gives a favorable decision, a patent is granted.We begin by reviewing your submitted non-provisional application. Missing information or items results in an official letter from the USPTO notifying you of what’s missing. You will be given a specific time period to complete the filing. Once your application is accepted as complete, it will be assigned for examination.Your examiner will then review the application to determine if it meets patenting requirements. An official correspondence called First Action on the Merits will explain the reasons for any objections or rejections.You will be able to amend the application or argue against the examiner's objections/rejections. If your response, including amendments, to the First Action on the Merits overcomes all objections/rejections, the examiner will issue a notice of allowance, and a patent will be published after payment of the issue fee.If your amendments and response do not overcome all objections/rejections, the examiner may send a Final Action. If your response to a Final Action does not overcome all objections/rejections or if any claims have been twice rejected, you can appeal to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).The patent process overview page provides more detailed information.Patent examination can be a lengthy process. We maintain a data portal for general information about the average pendency of applications. The First Office Action Estimator can be used to estimate how long it will take for such an action to be issued on a specific patent application just by its application number. Examiners take up assigned applications in the order they were filed or in accordance with set procedures. Any application will not be advanced out of turn for examination or further action except according to the rules, or upon order of the USPTO Director to expedite agency business, or upon a showing that (in the Director’s opinion) will justify advancement. Various programs and initiatives are available in certain circumstances to speed up the process.RestrictionsIf two or more inventions are claimed in a single application, and are regarded to be independent and distinct enough that a single patent should not be issued for both, you will be required to limit (restrict) the application to one of the inventions. The other invention may become the subject of a separate application that, if filed while the first application is pending, will be entitled to the benefit of that application’s filing date. An examiner may restrict the application to one invention before further action.For more information on restrictions, see MPEP § 801.Office actionYou are notified in writing of the examiner’s decision by an office action. This is normally mailed to the attorney or agent of record, or to you directly if not represented by an attorney or agent.The reasons for any adverse action, objection, or requirement are stated in the office action, and you may receive information or references useful in aiding your judgment of whether to continue prosecution of the application.If the claimed invention is not directed to patentable subject matter, or if the examiner finds that the claimed invention lacks novelty or differs only in an obvious manner from what is found in the prior art, the claims may be rejected. Commonly, some or all claims will be rejected on the first office action; relatively few applications are allowed as filed.Applicant's replyA USPTO patent examiner may issue several different types of official letters about your application, including an office action. Carefully read USPTO correspondence to understand the type of response needed and the time period for filing it.You must request reconsideration in writing, pointing out the supposed errors in the office action, and replying to every objection and rejection. The reply must be a good faith effort to advance the case to final action or allowance. The mere allegation that the examiner has erred is not a proper reason for reconsideration.More information on replyIn amending an application in reply to a rejection, you must clearly point out why you think the amended claims are patentable in view of the state of the art disclosed by the prior references cited or the rejections and objections made. You must also show how the claims as amended avoid such references, or rejections and objections. After your reply, the application will be reconsidered, and you will be notified about the status of the claims (that is, whether the claims are rejected or objected to, or allowed, in the same manner as after the first examination). The second office action is usually final.Interviews with examiners enable you to discuss and resolve issues, being an effective tool to advance prosecution of an application. The USPTO encourages proactive communication from examiners in order to shorten the prosecution process. Interviews with examiners do not remove the necessity of timely replying to an office action.Most replies to an office action (official letters) must be received within six months from the mailing date on the action. These actions almost always shorten the period within which a response can be filed without paying extension-of-time fees. The shortened period is typically either two or three months, depending on the type of office action.In certain circumstances, the office action will specify a different response period. There are no extensions beyond the six-month statutory time period for reply, other than notices without such a reply period. Without submitting an acceptable, timely response to an office action, the application will be abandoned.Final rejectionOn the second or later consideration, the rejection or other action may be made final. Your reply is then limited to appeal in the case of rejection of any claim, and further amendment is restricted. After the final action, you may amend claims, appeal rejections, or file a request for continued examination (RCE).More information on final rejectionAn amendment after final has these attributes:An amendment may be made canceling claims or complying with any requirement of form expressly set forth in a previous office action.An amendment presenting rejected claims in better form for consideration on appeal may be admitted; orAn amendment touching the merits of the application or patent under reexamination may be admitted upon a showing of good and sufficient reasons why the amendment is necessary and was not earlier presented.You may petition the USPTO Director concerning objections or requirements not involved in the rejection of any claim (premature final rejection, review of examiner’s holding of new matter, etc.). Reply to a final rejection or action must include cancelation or appeal from each rejected claim, and (if any claim stands allowed) compliance with any requirement or form objection.If your response to a final action does not overcome all examiner objections or if any claims have been twice rejected, consider filing an appeal with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Alternative to appeal, for consideration of different claims or more evidence, consider filing a request for continued examination (RCE) or a continuation application.For the RCE filing requirements, see 37 CFR 1.114. An RCE is not available for design applications, but a continuation application may be filed as a Continued Prosecution Application (CPA) under 37 CFR 1.53(d).Amendments to applicationAmendments to applicationYou may amend the application as specified by rule or as required by the examiner.Amendments received on or before the mail date of the first office action are called “preliminary amendments,” governed by 37 CFR 1.115. Amendments replying to a non-final office action are governed by 37 CFR 1.111. Any amendments filed after final action are governed by 37 CFR 1.116 and 37 CFR 41.33, and are not entered as matter of right, as are supplemental and after-allowance amendments.The specification, claims, and drawings must be amended and revised when required. This is to correct inaccuracies of description and definition or unnecessary words, and to provide substantial correspondence between the claims, description, and drawings.All amendments and additions to the drawings or specification must not include new matter beyond the original disclosure. Matter not found in either, involving a departure from or addition to the original disclosure, cannot be added, even if supported by a supplemental oath or declaration, and can be shown or claimed only in a separate application.More information on amendmentsThe manner of amending an application is provided in 37 CFR 1.121. Amendments to the specification (not including the claims) must be made by adding, deleting or replacing a paragraph; replacing a section; or a substitute specification.Replacement paragraphs are to include markings (such as underlining and strikethroughs) to show all changes relative to the previous version of the paragraph. New paragraphs are to be provided without any underlining.If a substitute specification is filed, it must be submitted with markings showing all changes to the immediate prior version. The substitute must be accompanied by a statement that it includes no new matter, and also accompanied by a clean version without markings.No changes in drawings may be made except by agency permission. Changes in the construction shown in any drawing may be made only by submitting replacement drawing sheets, each labeled “Replacement Sheet” in the top margin if replacing an existing drawing sheet.Any replacement drawing sheet must include all figures appearing on its immediate prior version, even if only one figure is amended. Any new sheet of drawings containing an additional figure must be labeled in the top margin as “New Sheet.” All changes to drawings must be explained in detail, in either the drawing amendment or remarks section of the amendment paper.Amendments to claims must all be presented in a listing that replaces all prior versions of the claims. The status of every claim must be indicated after its claim number, after using one of the seven parenthetical expressions in 37 CFR 1.121(c). “Currently amended” claims must be submitted with markings (like underlining and strikethroughs), with all pending claims not being amended presented without markings.The original numbering of the claims must be preserved throughout prosecution. When claims are canceled, the remaining claims must not be renumbered. Claims added by amendment or substituted for canceled claims must be numbered consecutively beginning with the number following the highest-numbered claim previously presented. When the application is ready for allowance, the examiner will (if necessary) renumber the claims consecutively in the order in which they appear or as you request.Time for reply and abandonmentYour reply to an office action must be made within a time limit specified in the action. The maximum period for reply is six months (see 35 U.S.C. 133), though the USPTO Director may shorten it to not less than 30 days. The usual reply period is three months, although the time may be extended up to the maximum six months.An extension-of-time fee is normally required, the amount depending on the length of the extension. Such extensions are generally unavailable after an application has been allowed.If no reply is received within the time period, the application is considered abandoned and no longer pending. But if the failure to prosecute is shown to be unintentional, the application may be revived upon approval of a request to the USPTO Director.The revival requires a petition to the Director establishing that the entire delay in filing the reply and petition was unintentional, along with a petition fee. The proper reply must also accompany the petition if not yet filed. If the petition is filed more than two years from the date of abandonment, an additional explanation of the circumstances surrounding the delay must be provided, to establish it was unintentional.Appeal to the PTAB and the courtsAppeal to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and the courtsIf the examiner persists in rejecting any claims in an application, or if the rejection has been made final, the applicant may appeal to the PTAB in the USPTO. The PTAB consists of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, the Deputy for the aforementioned Under Secretary and Director, the Commissioner for Patents, and the administrative patent judges. Normally, each appeal is heard by only three of these members.An appeal fee is required, and you must file a brief to support your position. An oral hearing will be held if requested upon paying the additional fee.As an alternative to appeal, when you desire consideration of different claims or further evidence, you may file a request for continued examination (RCE) or a continuation application. For the requirements for filing an RCE, see 37 CFR 1.114. An RCE is not available in a design patent application, but a continuation of a design application may be filed as a Continued Prosecution Application (CPA) under 37 CFR 1.53(d).If the PTAB decision is still adverse, you may appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, or file a civil action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The Court of Appeals will review the office action and may affirm or reverse. In a civil action, you may present testimony, and the court will rule.For more information, visit the PTAB page.Allowance and issue of patentsIf, on examination or later reconsideration, the patent application is found allowable, a Notice of Allowance and Fee(s) Due will be sent to you or (if any) your attorney or agent of record. A fee for issuing the patent and (if applicable) for publishing the application (see 37 CFR 1.211-1.221) is due within three months from the date of the notice.If timely payment of fees is not made, the application will be regarded as abandoned (see the current USPTO fee schedule). Late fees may be accepted if the delay is shown on petition to be unintentional. When fees are paid, the patent issues after the date of payment, dependent upon the volume of printing on hand.The patent is published on the day of its grant. On that date, the patent file becomes open to the public, unless the application was opened earlier due to prior publication.When publication of an application or granting of a patent would be detrimental to national security, the Commissioner for Patents will order it be kept secret and withhold publication or granting as long as required. The owner of an application under a secrecy order has the right to appeal to the Secretary of Commerce (35 U.S.C. 181).PetitionsPetitions concerning relevant matters are administered by the Office of Petitions. Petitionable matters include, but are not limited to:Filing of patent applicationsRevival of abandoned applicationsReinstatement of expired patentsWithdrawal of patent applications from issueSmall entity entitlementReview of previous decisions by TCs (Technology Centers)Suspension of regulationsQuestions not specifically covered by regulationsDifferences of opinion about the denial of patent claims because of prior art or other patentability issues related to the merits of the application are resolved by appeal to the PTAB. All other issues are petitionable to the USPTO Director. Ordinarily, objections are petitionable and rejections appealable. The PTAB will not ordinarily hear an issue that should be decided by the Director, and vice versa. See MPEP § 1201 for more information.Each petition has these five general requirements:Be in writing (37 CFR 1.2)Contain a statement of facts involved, points to be reviewed, and the action requested (37 CFR 1.181[b])Be accompanied by a fee, if required, to avoid summary dismissal (37 CFR 1.181[d])Be timely filed, as required in 37 CFR 1.181(f) or in a specific statute or regulationComply with any specific requirements of a statute, regulation, or USPTO policyFor more information, visit the Petitions page.The Patents petitions timeline provides you access to petitions that can be submitted during each stage of prosecution, and information related to each specific petition and deciding office. Also, the timeline provides information on the historical grant rates and how long it takes for petitions to be decided. Ready to file?Use the USPTO's electronic filing systems to submit utility and provisional applications and many other types of correspondence. When ready to file, access Patent Center or EFS-Web for more instructions.Patent Center is the newest tool for electronic filing and for managing applications. Visit the Patent Center Information page for more information.EFS-Web is a legacy patent application and document submission tool. Visit the EFS-Web Guidance and Resources page to learn more.General information and correspondenceAll business with the USPTO should be conducted in writing. You, and attorneys or agents, are required to conduct business with decorum and courtesy. Papers presented in violation of this requirement will be closed.Regular nonprovisional utility applications must be filed via EFS-Web to avoid the $400 non-electronic filing fee. Other patent correspondence — including design, plant, and provisional application filings — as well as correspondence filed in a nonprovisional application after the filing date (“follow-on” correspondence), can still be mailed or hand-delivered without the $400 fee.Other patent-related postal correspondence should be addressed to:Commissioner for PatentsP.O. Box 1450Alexandria, VA 22313-1450If a mail stop is appropriate, it should also be used. Mail addressed to different mail stops should be mailed separately to ensure proper routing.Separate letters (not necessarily in separate envelopes) should be written for each distinct inquiry, such as assignments, payments, orders for printed copies of patents and records, and other requests. None should be included with letters responding to office actions.More information about contacting the USPTOCorrespondents should include their full return addresses, including ZIP codes. The principal location of the USPTO is 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450. Your personal presence at the USPTO is unnecessary.You do not have to be a registered eFiler to file a patent application via EFS-Web. Only registered eFilers may try to file follow-on correspondence via EFS-Web, though. Follow-on correspondence by unregistered eFilers must be postal-mailed, faxed or hand-delivered to the address specified above.If you receive a Notice of Incomplete Application that an application number has been assigned but no filing date granted, become a registered eFiler and file your reply via EFS-Web to avoid the $400 non-electronic filing fee. To file follow-on correspondence, become a registered eFiler or call the Electronic Business Center at 866-217-9197.Visit the USPTO Mailing and hand-carry addresses page for a full mail-stop list. For example, mail after-final correspondence to:Mail Stop AFCommissioner for PatentsP.O. Box 1450Alexandria, VA 22313-1450Requests for a corrected filing receipt and replies to notices such as for omitted items, filing corrected papers, incomplete applications, compliance with nucleotide sequence requirements, filing missing application parts, and associated papers and fees should be mailed to Mail Stop Missing Parts. Petitions to be decided by the Office of Petitions, including to revive an application and accept late payment of issue or maintenance fees, should be mailed to Mail Stop Petition.When a letter concerns a patent application, you must include the application number (series code and serial number, such as 12/123,456) or the serial number and filing date assigned to that application, or the international application number. Letters concerning a patent (other than for paying a maintenance fee) should include the name of the patentee, title of the invention, patent number, and date of issue.An order for a copy of an assignment should identify the reel and frame number where the assignment or document is recorded. Otherwise, an additional charge applies to the time spent searching for the assignment.Applications not published or issued as patents are not generally open to the public, with no information released except on written authority of you the applicant, your assignee or attorney, or when necessary to USPTO business. Applications and related records — including of any decisions, assignments other than unpublished applications, patent applications relied upon for priority, books, and other agency papers — are open to the public. They may be inspected in the USPTO Search Room, or copies ordered.The USPTO cannot perform these functions:Respond to inquiries concerning the novelty and patentability of an invention prior to filing an applicationGive advice on possible patent infringementAdvise on propriety of filing an applicationRespond to inquiries on whether or to whom an invention has been patentedExpound on patent law or provide counsel, except when answering questions in regularly filed casesGeneral information may be furnished directly, or by supplying or calling attention to an appropriate publication. Visit the USPTO Contact page for more information.