According to the USPTO, it takes about 22 to 30 months to get a patent prosecuted and issued. The current USPTO average wait time is 24 months. In other words, it usually takes 2 or more years from the time a non-provisional patent application is filed to get a patent issued. That is only if the invention is patentable, the application is written well, and all of the forms and formalities are proper. Being aware of all the deadlines and response times will ensure the entire process runs most efficiently, cost and time wise.

The time it takes for each step in the patent application process to be completed depends on how much time is needed to search, review, evaluate, draw, write, and review before filing. Before the initial filing to the USPTO, it will likely take weeks to complete a prior art search, patentability study, get the figures drawn, write the claims, specification, and abstract, even when preparing with a patent practitioner

New for 2023: Carson Patents can write and file accelerated examination patent applications under the USPTO’s Accelerated Examination Program for both utility and design patent applications. This USPTO program is meant to get to a final decision regarding allowance and issue, or rejection, within 12 months by adding a pre-examination search, an accelerated examination support document (AESD), and an examiner interview with the patent examiner.

Important Tip: There are several ways of getting patent applications prosecuted faster through the USPTO. Read more about getting your patent application prosecuted faster in our article on accelerating patent applications.

Patent Practitioners Can Be Useful

The patent application process to get a patent is a complex set of laws, regulations, policies, and procedures; therefore, working with a patent practitioner is recommended in order to be time efficient. Their experience and knowledge of deadlines is useful to avoid time delays. Though it is possible to file a patent pro se, it may result in more of a wait time due to the tedious research required to write and file a complete and proper response to an office action from the USPTO – especially if unexperienced.

How to Get a Patent For Free – Pro Se

Filing pro se to get a patent refers to an applicant filing and completing the patent application process themself. The USPTO recognizes that the cost of legal assistance to get a patent may be prohibitive for many applicants, particularly independent inventors and small businesses. So they run a program, the Pro Se Assistance Program, dedicated to help independent inventors and small businesses meet their goal of protecting valuable intellectual property.

Mistakes in Patent Applications Cause Delays

If there are inaccuracies or corrections that need to be made to an application, that can increase the time it takes to prosecute a patent application. If too many issues remain unresolved after exchanging more than two office actions, it may be necessary to file a request for continued examination. 

An office action refers to a written correspondence from a patent examiner. Office actions require the applicant to create a written response that addresses each objection and question the patent examiner has in order for the patent application process to continue. Failure to respond to an office action in a timely manner will result in the abandonment of the patent application. 

If an applicant still wants to be issued a patent on an abandoned patent application, they would have to restart the entire process over again, resulting in an extended timeline for patent issuance. Restarting the process to get a patent also includes paying all the necessary fees again.

Important Note: The USPTO is a fee-funded federal government agency. Due to this, any corrections to an existing application or file requests are going to cost the applicant.

Another potential official letter an applicant may receive after filing is a notice. A notice is sent when an examiner identifies one or more deficiencies in a patent application. Applicants are then given a three month period to rework the deficiency identified. Sometimes an office action is a notice of allowance and therefore, does not require any corrections. 

For more information on how to get a patent regarding office action responses and their deadlines, visit the USPTO website.

What Kind of Patent Application Can Impact Time to Final Decision

Multiple factors may alter how long it takes to get a patent issued. Two factors are the kind or type of patent you are trying to get. There are two different kinds of patent applications: provisional and complete (non-provisional). Narrowing down even further, there are three categories to these types of patent applications: utility, design, and plant. Note that when working on how to get a patent on a design, the design patenting applications cannot be provisional.

The type of application along with the kind of patent you are applying for will affect the time it takes to get a patent. Utility patents tend to take longer than design patents because they are more laborious to prepare before filing. In addition, the examiners at the Patent Office who review design patents have less of a backlog of applications to review than the utility application examiners. In addition, issues found in design patent applications are typically much easier to fix than those found in utility applications for patents. 

Provisional Patent Applications Can Extend Time to Final Decision

Provisional patent applications are usually completed the quickest but will not help you get a patent. Provisional patent applications establishes a filing date for an invention. Inventors can apply for a provisional patent application as soon as they can explain how the invention works, how it is used, and, importantly, how it is made.

Reduction to practice is required. Inventors do not need to have a prototype made in order to file to get a patent, but it must be actually possible to make the invention. So, the wait time used for provisional patent applications depends on how quickly a complete patent application can be prepared and filed. 

Provisional patent applications last 12 months from the date the application was filed. This 12 month period cannot be extended. In order to benefit from the early filing date offered by the provisional patent application, applicants must file a corresponding non-provisional patent application during the 12 month pendency period.

If an applicant fails to file within the 12 month pendency period, but files within 14 months of the provisional application filing date, it is still possible to restore the provisional patent application. A grantable petition that states the delay in filing a corresponding non-provisional patent application was unintentional must be filed. This grantable petition will require a fee to be paid in order for the provisional patent’s benefits to be restored, and you must file a complete regular patent application at the same time.

Non-Provisional Applications Start the Examination Process

Non-provisional patent applications are the formal applications submitted to the USPTO that can get a patent. This patent application requires much more attention to detail in order to be filed, therefore, it can take longer than a provisional patent. Depending on the invention’s complexity and the number of claims, non-provisional patent applications can take up to 3 months or more to be filed. 

Once a non-provisional patent application is on file, after a few months of processing, you can visit the USPTO website for time estimates using their first office action estimator.

Patent Application Process Time Ranges

The wait time for each step to get a patent depends on how much time is devoted to completing the application process thoroughly. A patent practitioner can accelerate the process by dedicating their time, experience, and skills to completing each step concisely in order to avoid multiple rejections or objections in office actions. 

A prior art search is the first step to completing any patent application. This process can take anywhere from 1 week to 6 months to complete. Depending on the complexity of the invention, this patent search can be a tedious process. This step is important, because inventors must prove their invention does not infringe on any other current or pending patents. 

The next step in the patent application process is drafting the application. Depending on the type of patent and volume of work, this part of the patent application can be completed in 1 to 4 weeks. For writing a patent application, it is highly recommended to work with a patent practitioner as they are experienced and can draft an application up more accurately. Filing pro se to get a patent is possible, but having a patent attorney review the draft can catch potential errors that would have cost the applicant in time and money. 

If filing a non-provisional application, the patent application will be placed into a queue where it will eventually be reviewed for acceptance by a patent examiner. How long this part of the process takes heavily depends on whether the applicant filed a utility, design, or plant patent. Each type of application is placed into a different queue. These queues have different backlogs.

The average time for a patent examiner to examine a patent application is 21 months. The patent examiner will accept the application or send the applicant office actions to respond to. The patent examiner will continue reviewing the patent applications and the office action responses until the patent is accepted and filed. The time range for responding to office actions depends on how many errors, if any, are found in the patent application.

Track One Priority Status

Each year, the USPTO offers prioritized examinations to a specific number of utility and plant patent applications. This priority status is also known as Track One. Track One is limited to 10,000 applicants each fiscal year.

As mentioned before, the USPTO is fee-funded. So in order to be considered, an applicant will have to pay an additional fee if they wish to go through the patent application as quickly as possible. This fee depends on the size of the entity. Micro entities are the cheapest at $1000 which doubles for small entities. The last entity is regular, which is double the small entity fee. With a priority status, the USPTO will aim to have a final decision, allowance or rejection, within 12 months since the status was granted to the applicant. 

Not only must Track One applicants pay a fee to be considered, but there are restrictions that may disqualify applicants. In a patent application, there must be no more than four independent claims, no more than one dependent claim, and no more than 30 claims. If a patent application is not in line with these restrictions, they will not be granted Track One priority status. 

Contact us or schedule a free consultation to see whether a patent can be issued for your new invention or product. Read more in our article about accelerating patent applications.

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