What Is a Child Patent?

By Shelly Morgan

When patent attorneys refer to parents and children, they mean something very different than when practitioners of family law use the same words. After you file a patent application, you can file a continuation of that application. The continuation is a new patent application that contains some of the same material as the original application. Under these circumstances, the original application is called the parent and the subsequent application is called a child. Continuations can be filed any time before the parent is accepted or rejected. The Manual of Patent Examination Procedures, commonly known as the MPEP, describes several important types of continuations.

When patent attorneys refer to parents and children, they mean something very different than when practitioners of family law use the same words. After you file a patent application, you can file a continuation of that application. The continuation is a new patent application that contains some of the same material as the original application. Under these circumstances, the original application is called the parent and the subsequent application is called a child. Continuations can be filed any time before the parent is accepted or rejected. The Manual of Patent Examination Procedures, commonly known as the MPEP, describes several important types of continuations.

Definitions

Discussing patent children and patent parents requires a technical vocabulary. All patent applications include a specification and set of claims. The specification is a narrative, often accompanied by drawings, that describes everything someone skilled in the art needs to know to make and use the invention. Often, it refers to elements that are not part of the invention. The claims appear after the specification. They are written in a very abstract language that specifically sets forth what is novel and non-obvious about the invention. All patent applications have a priority date, which is when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or PTO, received the application.

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Continuations

"Child patent" is an informal name for a continuation patent. Many patent applicants routinely file continuations as a way to augment the claims of the parent. This practice allows the applicant to expand the reach of the parent application and make it a broader, stronger patent. Frequently, in the rush to obtain a priority date, the inventor will not have considered all aspects of the invention that could be claimed. The continuation has the same priority date as the parent. This priority date is very important because it determines when the inventor's legal rights with respect to the invention begin.

Continuation Rules

Applications for continuation patents must be filed with the PTO before the parent patent application issues. Many patent attorneys consult their clients before a patent issues and determine if there is a possibility claims of the parent can be expanded. After the continuation application is filed, the parent application issues.

Divisionals

Several different types of children exist. Divisional patent applications are a type of child in which the original parent application included more than one invention. If this occurs, the PTO will request the applicant describe each invention in a separate application known as a divisional. Divisional applications claim the priority date of the original application.

Continuation-in-Part

The continuation-in-part is an exceptional child. Unlike other children, a CIP application can include new matter in both the specification and the claims. CIPs are complicated documents because the new matter might have a new priority date. You should seek the counsel of an online legal service or patent attorney if you contemplate filing a CIP.

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What If a Full Patent Is Not Approved and You Have a Provisional Patent?

References

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Elements of a Patent

A patent gives an inventor the legal right to prevent others from making, using or selling the inventor’s new device, process, design or substance. In effect, a patent is a short-term monopoly for an invention. Most patents expire in 20 years. A patent grant encompasses the elements of the inventor’s patent application. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reviews patent applications and issues a certificate for each approved patent. This certificate acknowledges that the federal government has granted the inventor a patent for the invention. Patents have several required elements.

Is a Provisional Patent Made Public on Issuance of a Final Patent?

A provisional patent application is a simple, inexpensive way for an inventor to preserve her rights to an invention. It gives the inventor a one-year period to decide whether to proceed with filing a more complex and costly non-provisional application that can mature into an issued utility patent. In some instances, provisional patent applications are made public.

What Are Patents?

Article I of the U.S. Constitution empowers the federal government to grant patents to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts.” A patent is a property right that enables an inventor to prevent others from using his invention for a limited time. In essence, it gives the inventor a monopoly and the exclusive rights to sell, use, or license the invention. To receive a patent, the inventor must publicly disclose how the invention works. By providing legal protection to new inventions, patents help encourage investments in research and development without fear that another will steal their hard work.

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