Maiorana, P.C.

Registered Patent Attorneys

Is There A Difference Between An Application Number And A Patent Number?

Yes, there is a difference.

When a patent application is filed, the Patent Office assigns an application number. This is sometimes referred to as a Serial Number. Once a patent application issues into a patent, a full patent number is assigned. An application number has the format of XX/XXX,XXX (note the slash). A U.S. patent number typically has the format of X,XXX,XXX. On the cover of an issued U.S. patent, the formal format would be something more like US 9,444,416 B1. The two letters afterwards indicate what variety of classification issues, such as whether the patent had a publication or not. I discuss publications here.

A publication has a similar look to a patent, but is simply a document reflecting the original filing. The format for a publication would be something like US 2007/0201588 A1. The number before the slash is the year that the application published. The number after the slash is different than the application number and different from the patent number. Yes - it is a bit confusing. But these conventions do help to organize things to some extent. Since they are assigned by the U.S. Patent Office (USPTO), there is no discretion in assigning these numbers.

When an application is initially filed, there is an option to ask the Patent Office to “not publish” the application. Unless the box to not publish, the Patent Office will publish the application at 18 months from filing. The publication is a document that looks similar to an issued patent. For a published application, there is a PDF version available of all the documents that are filed. At that point (the date of publication), the patent application moves from a confidential state to a publicly available state. So anyone can read the specification and claims, and even track the progress through the Patent Office (for a case that has published).

The publication was a fairly recent addition (with the American Inventors Act of 1999). The first applications published on March 15, 2001. Prior to the availability of publications, a patent application was maintained in secrecy until it issued as a patent. Some clients prefer to keep their patent applications in a confidential state up until the patent issues. There are several factors that need to be considered, discussed here.

If a patent application is maintained in a confidential state at the Patent Office, it is not a good idea to put the application number on documents such as resumes, LinkedIn profiles, or other publicly available documents.

You can always ask one of our Affordable Patent Attorneys for additional information. Please call us at MI - 586-498-0670 or CA - 408-890-6549

  • Chris Maiorana
  • June 2017
Topics: USPTO Patent, publication number, patent number, American Inventors Act, San Jose

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