A patent application is a legal document filed with a Patent Office. A Patent Examiner then reviews the application and decides whether to grant a patent. Once the application has been filed, products and/or processes covered by the application can be marked and/or marketed as ‘patent pending’.
‘Patent pending’ and similar markings serve to put would-be imitators on notice of the patent application. Typically a court will take this into account when assessing the penalties to be paid by the imitator if a patent granted on the application is enforced. More on patent marking.
A patent application typically includes a patent specification and a patent request. The patent request identifies the patent applicant and whether the application is:
- a provisional application,
- an international application (aka PCT application),
- for a standard patent, or
- for an innovation patent.
The patent application process typically includes a number of patent applications filed at different times and formally linked together – for example, an international application may ‘claim priority’ from an earlier provisional application.
A patent application can be directed to more than one invention, although this eventually leads to objections from Patent Examiners. The objections can be overcome by deleting claims (definitions of coverage) to all but one of the inventions. Patent protection for the deleted inventions can then be pursued by filing divisional patent applications. A claim to divisional status is another form of formal link between applications.
If the inventions are sufficiently related, the inclusion of multiple inventions in a single application advantageously defers and minimises costs by deferring the expense of filing the extra patent applications until later on in the process.