The Patent Examination Process
A patent application has three parts: a description of the invention, the inventor's claims of what the invention is supposed to do, and drawings or blueprints (which may be in draft form) of the invention. Once the inventor provides this information, a patent examiner reviews the application, ensuring that the required information is included. He then searches for prior art, and compares the proposed invention with those already given patent protection. This search process will confirm whether the applicant has proposed a novel invention. If so, the inventor is entitled to patent protection.
Notice of Allowance
When the examiner determines that the patent application is complete and meets all statutory requirements, he sends a Notice of Allowance to the applicant, indicating the intention of granting him a patent. For the patent to be issued, the applicant must complete two additional steps after receiving the notice -- pay the required issue fee and submit any final drawings. The USPTO must receive the issue fee and final drawings within three months of when the USPTO mailed the notice to the applicant. These are statute-mandated steps and no exceptions or extensions can be granted.
Further Requirements After the Notice of Allowance
A Notice of Allowance And Fee(s) Due form (PTOL-85), has several parts. Part B of that form must be signed and returned to the USPTO address at the top of the form, together with the issue fee. If the applicant included draft drawings in the application, he must also send final drawings to the USPTO with Part B. Unless the final drawings change the patent specifications, the examiner does not need to review them again.
No earlier than 18 months after the earliest filing date of a patent application, the USPTO will publish the patent. Upon publication, the patent itself and the patent file is available to the public. The applicant may request that the patent be published earlier than the 18 month requirement, since the waiting period is to protect the applicant. Until the USPTO publishes the patent, no information about the patent may be disclosed to the public. The applicant must also pay a publication fee before the patent is issued.