What does the term "patent pending" mean?
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
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The terms “patent pending” and “patent applied for” are frequently used by a manufacturer to inform the public that an application for a patent on that article is on file. False use of “patent pending” and “patent applied for” is illegal and can result in a penalty. A patent is pending approval at the time of filing. Most modern manufacturers and inventors submit their patent applications electronically, so the patent becomes pending immediately upon submission.
Patents go through a long review process before being approved. During this process the patent can actually be sent back for resubmission further extending the approval process. By marking an item as “patent pending” or “patent applied for”, the manufacturer is clearly communicating that they have patent in process that may become approved at any time. This warning is considered sufficient to hedge off potential patent infringments. In most cases, you can obtain an injunction to halt the manufacturing of the patented product until the review process is complete. If the patent is approved, the infringing party can no longer manufacture the product without your approval. Once the patent is approved, a manufacturer must stamp the word “Patent” on all of the particular products. If the manufacturer does not, then the manufacturer will be unable to collect damages if there is an infringement issue.
This article is a broad overview of the rules for the term “patent pending.” If you have any questions regarding a pending patent, please contact a patent attorney.