What Does Patent Pending Mean?

by Evan

The Wife received a cool wine aerator from a company named, Vinturi.  I noticed that the box mentioned that the technology was patent pending, and I thought to myself what does ‘patent pending’ even mean?

Vinturi Wine Aerator

Review of Vinturi Wine Aerator

First the results of the product.  The product is a modern looking glass piece that is about 4 or 5 inches and sits in a black rubber stand.  It would look sharp on any bar.

The Wife took 4 people (Mother in law, Sister in law, Sister in law’s fiancé and me) and poured two glasses of wine.  The Wife was the only one who knew which glass was the glass that went through the Vinturi aerator and the normal straight up wine.

The women, who drink wine often, knew right away.  The Sister in law’s fiancé didn’t know and I had an inkling, but I wasn’t positive.  The women loved the wine using the Vinturi Aerator.

As the night wore on, I might or might not have put my margarita through the aerator…it tasted better lol.

What is Patent Pending?  What Protections are Associated with Patent Pending?

I know very little about the patent and trademark process.  I did some clerical work for an attorney once, but I never took a class in law school and considering the following flow chart provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office it seems like a pretty complicated area of law.

USPTO Flow Chart

So what is the definition and laws surrounding patent pending? According to the USPTO

[it is] used by a manufacturer or seller of an article to inform the public that an application for patent on that article is on file in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The law imposes a fine on those who use these terms falsely to deceive the public.

Surprisingly that doesn’t really answer the questions, so I went researching a little further.  About.com provides a little bit more information, and explains why someone would use the term,

Manufacturers use patent pending as a warning that a patent may be issued that would cover the item and that copiers should be careful because they might infringe if the patent issues. Once the patent issues, the patent owner will stop using the phrase patent pending and start using a phrase such as “covered by U.S. Patent Number XXXXXXX.”

It seems that patent pending provides a type of protection from would be imitators.  If they succeed in imitating it may be only a couple of months before copying becomes a cause of action for a lawsuit.

Ever have any experience with the USPTO? How about filing a Patent or Patent Pending?

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Geoff August 9, 2010 - 7:50 am

Evan, I filed a patent myself (with no help from attorneys) and I must say that I have no idea how “normal people” can get through the process (I consider myself quite exceptional :))….our system has too much red-tape!

Just to get the paperwork submitted correctly you have to jump through a complicated series of hoops that are not very intuitive. A lot of faxing, applications, and notarization just to get a userid to submit more documents. However, I will say that if you call the USPTO, the employees there are VERY friendly and helpful…that part was quite shocking.

Also, my patent has been “pending” now for 2.5 years and won’t even be reviewed for another 18 months. How’s that for a backlog? Could you imagine any other business saying they’ll get to something in 4 years?

Evan August 9, 2010 - 8:51 am

You are exceptional! LOL

A 4 year backlog is NUTS. I wonder if you went through an attorney if it would have gone quicker? For instance when I go to traffic court I get ushered to the front, I wonder if it is the same for the USPTO?

I bet there is a business model somewhere in finding patent pending items and copying them for a little while KNOWING that you’ll have to eventually ditch the product?

Geoff August 9, 2010 - 8:58 am

I actually talked with an attorney afterwards and it doesn’t speed up the waiting period. Every industry or vertical has different Patent Examiners and some queues are longer than others. Software is about 4 years, but if I had submitted a botanical patent, who knows….6 months maybe?

Although, having an attorney can certainly speed up the “submission” portion of the process. There are also a lot of “inventor’s helpers” companies out there that will help you for a significant chunk of your patent rights.

There’s definitely a business model in copying patent pending products….it’s a significant chunk of revenue for developing nations worldwide! International patent law is a whole nother ugly beast.

Dale B. Halling August 9, 2010 - 10:50 am

Patent Pending: This just means that you have applied for a patent. Putting patent pending on your product tends to force your competitors to think about whether they want to compete on that product. Your competitors do not know if your patent may issue tomorrow and put them out of business. Ultimately, the business reason for a patent is to create a barrier to entry. This does not mean a perfect safe, just that you increase the cost and time necessary to compete with you.

Timeframe for Obtaining a Patent: One reason it takes so long to hear from the Patent Office (PTO) is that Congress has stolen about $1Billion in user fees from the PTO over the last two decades. You might want to yell at your congressman about this.

Suba August 10, 2010 - 6:13 pm

I don’t think going through an attorney will necessarily speed things up. My husband filed a patent 6 yrs ago through his company. Corporate attorney and everything… it is still pending! I have seen patent pending on quite a bit of kitchen products I buy, starting from tomato box (a box to store tomato that is shaped like… a tomato) to multitude of small electrics! People must be patenting everything, just in case!

(Off topic : Evan, you site has been exceptionally slow for me for the last few days, I tried to comment on your 2 yr anniversary post. I had to wait for a long time for it to load. And it might have gone to the spam, because I can’t see the comment)

IIW August 11, 2010 - 3:35 pm

Am I the only one that finds the ideas of patents a little silly? They seem to be used as legal weapons of mass destruction, at least in technology companies 😉

Maybe you’ll like http://www.cracked.com/article_15693_10-most-ridiculous-inventions-ever-patented.html


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