HOW DO I READ A PATENT DOCUMENT? - Part I - Understanding the Front Page

26 Apr 2017

US 2010/001515158 A1; EP 0 497904 B2; WO 2012/125525 A3; BR 10 2013 003693-5 A2. If these codes seem to you more likely an encrypted bank account access password, then, I guess you shall read what comes next, rs Because, for those who understand patents, only by reading these codes, one is not only able to know the country who issued the document but also if it is an application or a real patent, I mean, it´s been examined and granted by the Government. It´s even possible to know that one of them was modified after opposition from a competitor. Want to know how I know all of these things? Follow me! 


Every patent document begins with a Front Page. It has other parts also, but for now, let´s focus on this one. It´s what we first see when we search for patents in databases such as Google Patents or Espacenet. This initial page is more than a summary of the document. In fact, it contains a summary of the technology, but it also contains a series of information about the administrative process of that patent document. 


Before everything else, let´s talk about the first two letters. US is easy, isn´t? So is BR. Yes, These documents below were issued, respectively, by USA and Brazil. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each country has its own code. AU stands for Australia, JP for Japan, CH, Chi,ooops!, I mean, Switzerland, rsrs The code for China is CN. In order not to get confused, the complete list can be found in the World Intellectual Property Organization - WIPO ST.3 Recommendation. 

But, what about EP? There´s no such country as EP... EP comes from European Patent. But, no, it does not mean an European Patent. A patent is always territorial, that is, each country has its own. But European countries signed, in 1973, an International Agreement that created the European Patent Office, EPO, that today counts with 38 Parties (Countries), 10 more than the European Union. No, they are not the same thing, not even one Agreement is a part of the other. Inclusively, UK has already moved in the sense of not leaving the Patent Agreement. EPO centralizes applications and even examine them, granting or denying, in three official languages: English, French and German. This centralization economizes a lot of money and work, but we´ll talk about the EP patent in a future post even because a real european patent is to be created soon. Today, the focus is the Front Page. 


The next example is a document which starts by WO. This codes come from World. Here, also, it does not mean a global patent. But a global facilitated application. In order not to confuse, I will not elongate myself about the WO document here. But, keep them in mind, I´ll return in a future post.

 
The letters by the end of the codes mean the kind of patent document. For example, 'A' means it is a first level of publication, i.e. an application. That is, someone, a company, or an inventor, submitted the document to be granted. Only by this document, we cannot know if it has been examined or not.  Not even if the Government has granted it fully or partially. Remember that every patent application is published by the offices. In the moment of the publication, it becomes prior art. And no one after it will be able to get a patent based in its content. Nowhere in the world!


'A1', 'A2', 'A3', etc are successive publications of an application. It may have been, for example, because of a correction. The date of these publications is important because it marks the exact day in which it has became prior art and, hence, the day from which it began preventing others to get similar grants.


The letter 'B' means a second level of publication, for example, a granted patent. A case where a patent office has examined its content and concluded that it merited a patent protection. A 'B' document is no longer a patent application, but a patent indeed. If you compare two documents with the same code only differing by 'A' or 'B' you will know exactly what has been asked and what has been granted. Compare these two: 

 

Patent Application: 

 

 Granted Patent:

 

The owner received much less than what he had asked for, can you see? It´s not always like that, but in most of the cases, some reduction ends up happening. 


In an equivalent way, 'B1', 'B2', 'B3', etc are also successive publications of a patent. It may be after some kind of important typo correction or by the acknowledgment by the Office that some error has been made in the granting process. It may recognize, for example, that something has been granted that shouldn´t have been and correct itself. This review is usually made after demand by a competitor bothered with the granted patent. It´s called Oppostion and we´ll talk better about it in the future. 


Besides the obvious information as title, inventors, summary of the technology, etc, the Front page also contains a - usually, a few - classification codes. This information can be very useful during search, as I have already explained in another post


At last, the Front Page also contains a few dates. The most important ones are, generally speaking, the publication date of that specific document. Because this date mark, as I said, the day which that document became prior art. The other important date is the one marked by the code (24) because is from this date on that the protection rights are to be counted if it has been granted, of if it be granted in the future. Click here to find a list with each one of these codes and what they mean. They are extremely useful when we have to read, for example, a document written in a language we can´t understand. It may help to avoid an unnecessary - and expensive! - translation. 

 

In summary, every patent document begins with a Front Page that contains a summary of the document main information. So that when you are searching you don´t need to read the whole content of all the documents you find. 

 

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