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OSE 4930 - Frontiers in Optics

Parts of a patent

The vocabulary of patents and trademarks is unique.  The following terminology will help you understand the parts of a patent and elements of a preliminary patent search.  For a complete list of terms and definitions visit the USPTO - Glossary,

  • Abstract - A concise statement of the technical disclosure including that which is considered new or unique in the invention
  • Application number - 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
  • 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)
  • Claims - define the aspects of the invention that are legally enforceable. The specification must conclude with a claim particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter which the applicant regards as his invention or discovery. 
  • Classifications - patents are classified (organized) using a system to describe similar groupings of patent art. A single invention may be described by multiple classification codes.
    • USPC is the 3 digit class and a 3 digit subclass system used by the United States beginning in 1790 and ending with 2015.
    • CPC (Cooperative Patent Classification) was created by the USPTO and the European Patent Office and has been used since 2013.
  • Drawing (patent) - Patent drawings must show every feature of the invention as specified in the claims.
  • Inventor(s) - one who contributes to the conception of an invention. Even if something is invented as a work-for-hire by an employee of a company or university (i.e., the assignee), the inventor will ALWAYS be the name of the individual(s) who invented it.
  • Prior Art - aka "References Cited" on patent. In most systems of patent law, consists of all information that has been made available to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to a patent's claims of originality.
  • Specification - a written description of the invention and the manner and process of making and using the same


A patent is a property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.  In the U.S. there are 3 types of patents:

 • Utility Patent: Issued for the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof, it generally permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a period of up to twenty years from the date of patent application filing, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. Approximately 90% of the patent documents issued by the USPTO in recent years have been utility patents, also referred to as "patents for invention."
 • Design Patent: Issued for a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture, it permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the design for a period of fifteen years from the date of patent grant. The design patent protects only the appearance of an article, but not its structural or functional features.  Design patents are not subject to the payment of maintenance fees.
 Plant Patent: Issued for a new and distinct, invented or discovered asexually reproduced plant including cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber-propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state, it permits its owner  to exclude others from making, using, or selling the plant for a period of twenty years from the date of patent application filing. Plant patents are also not subject to the payment of maintenance fees, and may not be applied for via EFS-Web..


 • A provisional application for patent is a U. S. national application for patent filed in the USPTO under 35 U.S.C. § 111(b) . It allows filing without a formal patent claim, oath or declaration, or any information disclosure (prior art) statement. It provides the means to establish an early effective filing date in a later-filed non-provisional patent application filed under 35 U.S.C. § 111(a). It also allows the term "Patent Pending" to be applied in connection with the description of the invention.

    Provisional application for patent (provisional application) has a pendency lasting 12 months from the date the provisional application is filed.

   The 12-month pendency period cannot be extended. Therefore, an applicant who files a provisional application must file a corresponding non-provisional application for patent (non-provisional application) during the 12-month pendency period of the provisional application in order to benefit from the earlier filing of the provisional application.

   In accordance with 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) , the corresponding non-provisional application must contain or be amended to contain a specific reference to the provisional application within the time period and in the manner required by 37 CFR 1.78.

 • The Nonprovisional Application establishes the filing date and initiates the examination process. A nonprovisional utility patent application must include a specification, including a claim or claims; drawings, when necessary; an oath or declaration; and the prescribed filing fee.