The following are the most important terms you should know about when searching patents. Because of the importance of precision, for each definition, we are excerpting the exact wording from the USPTO as well as the Glossary of Patent Terminology from the OECD’s Economic Analysis and Statistics Division.
Applicant The person or company that applies for the patent and intends to “work” the invention (i.e. to manufacture or licence the technology). In most countries the inventor(s) does not necessarily have to be the applicant. In the United States, applicants must be the inventor(s), except in a few exceptional circumstances (e.g. legal representatives of a deceased inventor may make a patent application) (OECD)
Assignee the entity that is the recipient of a transfer of a patent application, patent, trademark application or trademark registration from its owner of record (assignor) (USPTO)
Claims: defin[ition of] the invention and are what aspects are legally enforceable. (USPTO).
(Note: There are two types of claims: Independent claims stand on their own, while dependent claims depend on a single claim or on several claims and generally express particular “embodiments” (patent versions) as fall-back positions)
Classification patents are classified (organized) in the U.S. by a system using a 3 digit class and a 3 digit subclass to describe every similar grouping of patent art. A single invention may be described by multiple classification codes. (USPTO)
Dead a dead or abandoned status for a trademark application means that specific application is no longer under prosecution within the USPTO, and would not be used as a bar against your filing. (USPTO)
Enforceability of Patent: the right of the patent owner to bring an infringement suit against a party who, without permission, makes, uses or sells the claimed invention. The period of enforceability of a patent is the length of the term of the patent plus the six years under the statute of limitations for bringing an infringement action. (USPTO)
European Patent Office (EPO) The European Patent Office was created by the EPC to grant European patents, based on a centralised examination procedure. By filing a single European patent application in one of the three official languages (English, French and German), it is possible to obtain patent rights in all the EPC member and extension countries by designating the countries in the EPO application. (OECD)
First to file A patent system in which the first inventor to file a patent application for a specific invention is entitled to the patent. This law is increasingly becoming the standard for countries adhering to the so-called Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs) guidelines. At the EPO and JPO [Japan Patent Office], patents are awarded on the first to file basis, whereas at the USPTO, patents are awarded on the first to invent basis. (OECD)
First to invent in the first to invent system a patent is awarded to the first person who made the invention, even if another person filed for a patent before the person who invented first. (OECD)
International Patent Classification (IPC) The IPC is an internationally recognised patent classification system, which provides a common classification for patents according to technology groups. The IPC is a hierarchical system in which the whole area of technology is divided into a range of sections, classes, subclasses and groups.
Inventive step An invention is considered to include an inventive step if it is not obvious to a skilled person in the light of the state of the art. The USPTO employs the concept of “non-obviousness”, which is equivalent to the inventive step criterion of the EPO in a legal context. (OECD)
KIND Code. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Standard ST.16 codes include a letter, and in many cases a number, used to distinguish the kind of patent document (e.g., publication of an application for a utility patent (patent application publication), patent, plant patent application publication, plant patent, or design patent) and the level of publication (e.g., first publication, second publication, or corrected publication). (USPTO)
PAIR: Patent Application Information Retrieval, a search site by the USTPO that provides secure access for customers who want to view current patent application status electronically via the Internet. (USPTO)
Patent Application (US): an application for patent filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) that includes all types of patent applications (i.e., utility, design, plant, and reissue) except provisional applications. (USPTO)
Patent application no: the unique number assigned to a patent application when it is filed. The application number includes a two digit series code and a six digit serial number (USPTO)
Patent Family: A patent family is the same invention disclosed by a common inventor(s) and patented in more than one country. (USPTO)
Prior art Previously used or published technology that may be referred to in a patent application or examination report, i.e. (a) in a broad sense, technology that is relevant to an invention and was publicly available (e.g. described in a publication or offered for sale) at the time an invention was made; or (b) in a narrow sense, any such technology which would invalidate a patent or limit its scope. The process of prosecuting a patent or interpreting its claims largely consists of identifying relevant prior art and distinguishing the claimed invention from that prior art. (OECD)
Priority date The priority date is the first date of filing of a patent application, anywhere in the world (normally in the applicant’s domestic patent office), to protect an invention. The priority date is used to determine the novelty of the invention, which implies that it is an important concept in patent procedures. …. [Novelty]: If an application for a patent is to be successful, the invention must be novel (new). The invention must never have been made public in any way, anywhere, before the date on which the application for a patent is filed (or before the priority date). (OECD)