Issue 93 | July 9, 2003
Now Online: US Patent Application Status, EU Design Registrations, & EPO File Inspection
 U.S. Patent Application Status Information Now Available on the Internet

U.S. patent application status information is now available to anyone on the Internet using the USPTO's Patent Application Information Retrieval ("PAIR") system at http://pair.uspto.gov/cgi-bin/final/home.pl.

The public section of the PAIR website displays status information for only issued patents and published applications. To access the public PAIR, you need only have a patent, application, or publication number that you wish to search for.

A sample PAIR report for published application no. US 2003-0081422 A1 is reproduced below:

A copy of a patent application file, or a particular paper within the file contents of an application, that was published under 35 U.S.C. 122(b), may be requested

By mail to:
United States Patent and Trademark Office,
Office of Public Records, Crystal Gateway 4, Room 335,
Washington, D.C. 20231

By facsimile to: (703) 305-8759, or
By telephone to: (703) 305-8716

with the appropriate fee. However, the file contents of a pending application that was published will not be given to a member of the public without a power to inspect. If the application is abandoned, then the entire application (except in the situation where the publication was a redacted publication) is available to the public for inspection and for making copies through the File Information Unit (FIU) in Crystal Plaza Three, Room 1D01, (703)308-2733.

USPTO Maintenance Fee Records Available on the Internet

Maintenance fee records for issued U.S. Patents are accessible on the Internet through https://ramps.uspto.gov/eram/default.htm by clicking on the "Pay Patent Maintenance Fees" link. On the next page, simply enter both the patent number and an application number (with series code) and click on the "Retrieve Fees to Pay" button. The site is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week except for Sunday through Saturday, 10:00 PM to 10:15 PM; and Sundays, Midnight to 4:00 AM. Alternatively, patent maintenance fee inquiries may also be made by telephone to (703) 308-5036, or e-mail to MaintenanceFeesInquiries@USPTO.GOV.

Patents which have been expired for more than twenty-four months after the six-month grace period provided in ยง 1.362(e) are reinstatable only upon showing that the delay was "unavoidable" since reasonable care was taken to ensure that the maintenance fee would be paid timely and that the petition was filed promptly after the patentee became aware of the expiration. The showing must enumerate the steps taken to ensure timely payment of the maintenance fee, the date and the manner in which patentee became aware of the expiration of the patent, and the steps taken to file the petition promptly.

For information about maintenance fees, please refer to Chapter 2500 of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure at http://

European Design Registrations Now On the Internet

The Community Designs Bulletin may now be searched on the Internet by entering text in the "Bulletin Quick Search" field (at http://oami.eu.int/en/design/bull.htm) or in the Web Site Search facility at (http://oami.eu.int/search/index/la/en_Index_Search.cfm). The search results provide images with good resolution and, due to the very short time between filing and publication, may be a useful source of prior art for U.S. patents and applications.

As discussed in Issue 35 of this newsletter (at http://www.aplf.org/mailer/issue35.html), the Community Design Regulation does not supplant national design protection. Rather, it provides a unitary scope of protection for all fifteen member states of the European Community. As discussed in Issue 45 of this newsletter (at http://www.aplf.org/mailer/issue45.html), the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market began accepting applications to protect designs within the European Union on January 1, 2003. To be registered, the design must be novel and present an individual character. The owner of a "Registered Community Design" then has the right to stop others from selling any product with a design that does not create a different overall impression. This exclusive right can be extended through renewals for up to 25 years from registration.

The Community Designs Bulletin is published in three parts. Part A relates to registrations of Community designs. Part B refers to entries in the Register subsequent to registration, such as amendments, transfers, licenses, etc. Part C lists renewals and information on expired registrations. The Bulletin database on the Internet includes searchable text relating to, among other things, Copies of the Bulletin and its numeric code definitions are available at http://oami.eu.int/bulletin/rcd/rcd_bulletin_en.htm.

EPO Online File Inspection Also Now Available

And, finally, the Europeans have outpaced the Americans again by introducing Online File Inspection via the Internet at http://www.epoline.org/onlinefileinspection.htm on June 18, 2003. The new system is available from 08.00 to 18.00 hrs CET and provides users with direct access to all published European patent applications and patents that are stored in electronic form.

There are currently around 971,095 files that are available for inspection, including those with filing dates after January 1, 1998 or a notice of opposition received after 15 October 2001. According to the EPO, less than 1% of pending search and examination files still have to be scanned. Any such unscanned files will be made available for online inspection within ten working days of entry of the application or publication number. However, this does not apply to files which have already been destroyed or to file for which oral proceedings have recently taken place or are imminent.

Files may be located by application or publication number then sorted according to date and procedure. Documents can then be viewed and printed directly, without downloading in a one single "/mailer/.pdf" formatted file. American patent practitioners can only hope that the recent availability of patent application status information on the Internet is just a prelude to a similar system in the U.S. In fact, on July 1, 2003, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced that "Electronic Patent Application Records Replace Paper Files." Less-expensive, electronic file histories can't be far behind.

For more information on the PAIR system, ideas on where to look for invalidating prior art, or information on EPO online file inspections, please contact the author, Bill Heinze, at Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley in Atlanta, Georgia USA.

The information contained in this email is provided for informational purposes only and does not represent legal advice. Neither the APLF nor the author intends to create an attorney client relationship by providing this information to you through this message.