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What does “patent pending” mean?

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2024 | Patent Law

“Innovation” is the name of the game when you want to stay in business – but the rush to market a new product can leave you feeling like your intellectual property (IP) rights could be at risk. It may not take very long before an imitator reverse-engineers your product and tries to compete with you.

This is where a “patent pending” designation can be helpful – since that serves as an alert to both the public and potential rivals that you have already staked a claim to the intellectual property behind whatever you’re selling.

When can you use a patent pending label?

The term is not just something that can be applied to an invention at will. Inventors are only allowed to use the “patent pending” designations when:

  • The provisional patent application has been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). 
  • You have filed your full application for a patent and it is going through the formal evaluation process.
  • You are in the process of negotiating with the patent office and making amendments to strengthen your patent application.

Once the patent has been granted, you can then replace the “patent pending” notice with the official patent number. 

Why bother with the “patent pending” label?

Since the “patent pending” label doesn’t give you any ability to take action against an intellectual property thief, what’s the point? Well, once your patent comes through, the legal protections you acquired are retroactive to the date of your provisional patent application. Since you put everyone on notice that you were taking the necessary steps to protect your IP rights, you have a stronger case to sue any IP thieves for damages. 

Patents are a notoriously complex area of the law. You need the right legal guidance in place to make sure that your IP is properly protected.