You've found a patent of interest but how do you know if it's dead or alive, and if alive, when it expires, and what exactly do those kind codes indicate?
I'll explore all these in a three part series of articles, starting with where to find status information and what it means.
Some patent offices explicitly report the status of an application, while others make you dig a little deeper, and some make you work hard for that information. Before we get to who's who and what's what, let's look at what the language around statuses is.
At the most basic level a patent is dead or alive, but within those labels there are a number of ways to describe where in the patent lifecycle they are. Statuses in both categories are split into pre-grant and post-grant. Every patent office has its own language around statuses. Here's a selection.
No opposition filed
Although data aggregators such as commercial patent databases often have status data, the recognised place to go for accurate status information is the national register for the patent of interest. In Australia that's AusPat, and in New Zealand it's IPONZ. Other sources include PAIR (United States), the European Patent Register, KIPRIS (South Korea), J-Plat-Pat (Japan), and thanks to Brexit, Ipsum (United Kingdom) now has more relevance than it used to. Of course the list of national registers is far too long to mention every one here, but you can find a list at the WIPO Patent Register Portal.
In some national registers all you need to do is search for a patent number (or any search) and the status will be provided as part of the search results or record view, such as AusPat below.
Others in this group include IPONZ, KIPRIS and Ipsum.
National registers in the next group don't explicitly state the status of a patent, and usually require a single click, or maybe two, from the search results page through to the record view. For example the search results page for J-Plat-Pat is shown below, and a click on 'Details' will take you to the information required.
Others in this group include In-PASS (India), PRV (Sweden) and the Canadian Patents Database.
The last group of national registers make you work harder to find the status of a patent. I'm looking at the European Patent Register, and giving death stares to the United States' PAIR in particular, and for different reasons.
First to the European Patent Register. The initial view is straightforward as shown here.
The status 'No opposition filed within time limit' refers to the period after acceptance where an application can be opposed before grant, and in this case that time has expired and the patent has been granted. Simple isn't it? Not quite. Europe is a group of countries, and a number of these get designated so that the EP patent is applicable in each of them, so your country of interest has to be on that list, as shown below. To find this list just scroll down the register page for this application.
Are we there yet? Sorry, no. We still need to scroll down the page a little further. The list of designated countries is essentially an ambit claim, hedging that the patent is going to make it big. They usually don't so many of the designated states find themselves on the 'lapsed' list, shown here in part.
Now you need to conduct a reverse search to see if the country of interest is on the list or not, made all the harder by having the list in date order, not alphabetical order. If the country of interest is here, the patent is dead, if not, possibly still alive. At first glance I can see Germany, France, Great Britain and Ireland are still potentially alive. A trip to their respective registers (Depatis, INPI, Ipsum and IPOI) is necessary to confirm that.
Now to PAIR. Many national registers will change the status of a patent when a significant event such as ceasing through non-payment of renewal fees, or expiry after the full term of the patent, but the USPTO do not. Take the example shown below where the initial view in PAIR indicates it is a 'Patented Case'.
The image doesn't show the application filing date or the earliest effective filing date but it is 3 May 1999 for both. If you've read my previous article on calculating United States patent expiries you'll know the expiry date is 3 May 2019. That's a date in the past so this patent has expired, but PAIR does not say so. You have to do all the work here.
There's always the possibility of a patent term adjustment of more than two years, but with an issue date just over three years after filing, that's unlikely, so you can assume it is well and truly dead.
This example is for a patent around the end of its expected life, but for others, in addition to calculating the expected expiry date, you may need to check the patent maintenance fees to see if they are up to date. You can access that information through PAIR.
That's a brief rundown on statuses, where to go to find them, and what language is used to describe them. I touched briefly on patent expiry dates for the United States. In Part 2 I'll look at patent expiries in other parts of the world.
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