General Patent Glossary Terms:
Below is a short list of some common patent-related glossary terms. A thorough list can be
found at the USPTO website.
- assignment: a transfer of ownership of a patent application or patent from one
entity to another. Record all assignments with the USPTO Assignment Services Division to
maintain clear title to pending patent applications and patents.
- assignee: the entity that is the recipient of a transfer of a patent application,
patent, trademark application or trademark registration from its owner of record (assignor).
- assignor: the owner of record of a patent application, patent, trademark application
or trademark registration who is transferring (assigning) ownership to another entity (assignee).
- claims: define the invention and are what aspects are legally enforceable. The
specification must conclude with a claim particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming
the subject matter which the applicant regards as his invention or discovery. The claim or
claims must conform to the invention as set forth in the remainder of the specification and
the terms and phrases used in the claims must find clear support or antecedent basis in the
description so that the meaning of the terms in the claims may be ascertainable (clearly
understood ) by reference to the description.
- classification: patents are classified (organized) in the U.S. by a system using a 3
digit class and a 3 digit subclass to describe every similar grouping of patent art. A single
invention may be described by multiple classification codes
- coinventor: an inventor who is named with at least one other inventor in a patent
application, wherein each inventor contributes to the conception (creation) of the invention
set forth in at least one claim in a patent application.
- combination patent: a patent granted for an invention that unites existing components in a novel way.
- common inventor: an inventor whose name is listed on multiple patent applications or granted patents,
making the inventions at least partially the work of the same person.
- continuation: a second application for the same invention claimed in a prior nonprovisional
application and filed before the first application becomes abandoned or patented.
- continuations-in-part: Generally referred to as a 'C.I.P.', this is essentially the same as the
continuation with the exception that some new material may be included. The C.I.P. must be filed while the
original parent application is pending for any disclosed material in common with the parent. The disclosure
of the parent is usually amplified and the C.I.P may claim the same or a different invention. A C.I.P
application is accorded the benefit of the filing date of the parent application to the extent of the
two applications' common subject matter.
- divisional application: a later application for an independent or distinct invention disclosing and
claiming (only a portion of and) only subject matter disclosed in the earlier or parent application.
- embodiment: a manner in which an invention can be made, used, practiced or expressed.
- encumbrance: A claim against a property by another party. Encumbrance usually impacts the
transferability of the property and can restrict its free use until the encumberance is removed.
The most common instances of an encumbrance occurs in real estate such as an outstanding mortgage
or unpaid property taxes. However, encumbrance can also be used in an accounting context to refer
to restricted funds inside an account that are to be used only for a specific liability.
- enforceability of patent: the right of the patent owner to bring an infringement suit against
a party who, without permission, makes, uses or sells the claimed invention. The period of enforceability
of a patent is the length of the term of the patent plus the six years under the statute of limitations
for bringing an infringement action.
- independent claim: a claim that does not refer back to or depend on another claim.
- intellectual property: Creations of the mind - creative works or ideas embodied in a form
that can be shared or can enable others to recreate, emulate, or manufacture them. There are four ways
to protect intellectual property - patents, trademarks, copyrights or trade secrets.
- invention: any art or process (way of doing or making things), machine, manufacture, design, or
composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, or any variety of plant, which is or
may be patentable under the patent laws of the United States.
- inventor: one who contributes to the conception of an invention. The patent law of the United States of
America requires that the applicant in a patent application must be the inventor.
- IP: intellectual property.
- issue date: the date that a patent application becomes a US patent. The issue date is the date
that patent rights can be exercised. U.S. patents are always issued on Tuesdays.
- joint inventor: an inventor who is named with at least one other inventor in a patent application,
wherein each inventor contributes to the conception of the invention set forth in at least one claim in a
- nonprovisional patent application: an application for patent filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) that
includes all patent applications (i.e., utility, design, plant, and reissue) except provisional applications.
The nonprovisional application establishes the filing date and initiates the examination process. A
nonprovisional utility patent application must include a specification, including a claim or claims; drawings,
when necessary; an oath or declaration; and the prescribed filing fee.
- patent: a property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor
"to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States
or importing the invention into the United States" for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the
invention when the patent is granted.
- patent family: A patent family is the same invention disclosed by a common inventor(s) and patented in
more than one country.
- patent infringement: unauthorized making, using, offering to sell, selling or importing into the United
States any patented invention.
- patent number: unique number assigned to a patent application when it issues as a patent.
- patent pending: A phrase that often appears on manufactured items. It means that someone has applied
for a patent on an invention that is contained in the manufactured item. It serves as a warning that a patent
may issue 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." Applying the patent pending phrase to an item
when no patent application has been made can result in a fine.
- prior art: in most systems of patent law, constitutes all information that has been made available
to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to a patent's claims of originality.
If an invention has been described in the prior art, a patent on that invention is not valid.