Published patent applications look similar to granted patents. So it is not unusual for a published patent application to be mistaken for a granted patent.
Not every patent application results in a granted patent. So even if a patent application publication exists, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the application will result in a patent.
In this post I’ll point out the differences between a patent application publication in a granted utility patent.
The following image is an excerpt from the front page of granted US Patent No. 8,000,000 (the ‘000 patent):
The following image is an excerpt of the front page of the Patent Application Publication No. US 2008/0262568 (the ‘568 application), which later became the granted patent above.
The patent application publication is not a granted patent. The patent application publication is simply a published application. In the example above, the ‘568 publication was published on October 23, 2008, but the ‘000 patent was not granted until August 16, 2011.
The patent application publication exists to let the public know of the contents of a patent application even if it doesn’t result in a patent. The contents of the patent application therefore become prior art based on the date it was published. If a patent doesn’t result, the public can benefit from the knowledge provided in the published patent application.
The first difference between a patent application publication and a granted patent is that the patent application publication provides “United States Patent Application Publication” in the upper left corner of the front page, but the granted patent provides “United States Patent” in the same area.
Second, you should note that the number format is different between a patent application publication in a granted patent. A patent application publication generally begins with a year followed by a “/” and then a number. In the example above the year is 2008 followed by a slash followed by a sequential number 0262568.
In contrast the patent application number is usually represented as a unitary number with commas between the hundreds and the thousands portion, and between the thousands and the millions portion of the number. Beginning in 1912 utility patent numbers entered the millions. You can see a full list of the patent numbers by year here. Currently we are in the 8 million range for patent numbers.
Under the patent number on a granted utility patent “Date of Patent” is provided adjacent the date. In contrast, a patent application publication provides “Pub. Date” adjacent the date under the publication number.
Paragraph and Line Numbering
In a granted US utility patent, line numbers are provided in increments of five and are located between the first and second column of each page of text as shown here:
In a patent application publication line numbers are not provided, instead paragraph numbers proceed each paragraph as shown here:
These are some of the ways that you can distinguish between a patent application publication and a granted patent.