One of the most critical steps an inventor or creator must take during the patent application process is conducting a search of existing patents. This step is important because it allows the applicant access to information regarding any similar products, processes or designs that may have previously been granted patent protections. As works that are either identical or fundamentally too similar to other protected works will not be granted patents, the significance of this particular step in the application process cannot be underestimated.
Unfortunately, the patent search process tends to be complex, time-intensive and fairly tedious. Investing in the assistance of an experienced intellectual property attorney will alleviate much of the burden associated with this process that might otherwise fall upon your shoulders. In addition, working with an attorney will better help to ensure that your patent search is thorough enough and informed enough to be truly valuable in regards to your application process. However, it is worth noting that even with the help of knowledgeable legal guidance, you will likely need to become somewhat familiar with what the patent search process entails. By forming a solid foundation of search-related knowledge, you will be better placed to ask informed questions of your attorney once the search results become available.
One potentially challenging reality of the patent search process is the number of abbreviations used in various search databases, applications and related documentation. As a result of these many abbreviations, reading search results and related paperwork can feel a bit like attempting to decipher a foreign language. Understanding some of the most commonly used abbreviations can help to alleviate some of the frustrations that tend to accompany processing the results of a patent search for the first time.
Who, What and When: Search Abbreviation Basics
One of the most useful tricks you can use when processing patent-related abbreviations is the “first letter” trick. Many of the most common words associated with patents are used over and over again in various abbreviations. Therefore, it is helpful to know what the first letter in an abbreviation may refer to, as this letter may represent a word that is frequently repeated in combination with other words. For example, the word “inventor” is understandably referenced quite a bit during patent searches. And as a result, when the letter “I” appears as the first letter in an abbreviation, it often references the word inventor. For example, “IC” is inventor city, “IN” is inventor name, “ICN” is inventor country, “IS” is inventor state and “IADR” is inventor address.
However, it is important not to take the first letter rule for granted. Many important words frequently referenced in patent searches may start with the same letter. For example, the letter “I” does not only refer to inventor when it stands as the first letter of common abbreviations. Another common patent-related word starting with the letter “I” is international. The abbreviation “IPC” is often referenced in patent searches and refers to International Patent Classification. However, once you learn the few common first letter designations associated with patent searches, these important outlier abbreviations become common knowledge fairly quickly.
Other common first letter(s) designations include “A” for assignee and “A” for agent. “PRI” is also common as it refers to the word priority. Assignee-related abbreviations include: “AC” is assignee city, “AN” is assignee name, “AADR” is assignee address and “ACN” is assignee country. Agent-related abbreviations include “AGT” which stands for agent. Most of the assignee abbreviations are the same as the agent ones (city, state, etc.), except assignees are referred to by a single letter A whereas agents are AGT. Finally, priority-related abbreviations include: “PRI” is priority country, “PRIN” is priority number and “PRIR” is foreign priority.
Other Important Abbreviations
Important outlier abbreviations that do not correspond to the general first letter rule should be committed to memory when possible. These outliers may be a bit more difficult to remember, but they appear frequently during the search process and refer to critical information. These outliers include: “ABST” is abstract, “ACLM” is claims, “APD” is filing date, “APN” is application number, “CCL” is U.S. class, “DN” is document number, “FOS” is field of search, “FREF” is foreign patent reference, “PD” is publication date, “PT” is document type, “REF” is a domestic patent reference, “SPEC” is specification and “TTL” is title.
Finally, there are several commonly used abbreviations that you will likely not need to memorize, because their usage is either fairly common or can be determined using common sense with little trouble. These abbreviations include: “D” for design patent, “PP” is plant patent, “R” is reissued.
If you ever have trouble deciphering your patent search results, please consult your attorney. There are a number of highly specialized abbreviations that may appear in your search that are not terribly relevant to your immediate process. This is because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office often makes obscure references to patent types that are no longer issued, reference materials that don’t concern current patent applicants, etc. Most of what you need to be concerned with should be fairly straightforward and/or highlighted by your attorney.
Patent Search and Application Guidance Is Available
By beginning the patent application process early, your file will be ready to submit as soon as your work becomes eligible for protection. If you are interested in obtaining patent protections for a new design, product, process or plant species, please consider contacting the LawTrades team. We understand the complexities of the patent application process and can assist you with your needs both affordably and efficiently.