Patent Publications are actually publications of patent applications, not issued patents. In the good old days patent applications in the US patent office remained confidential until the patent issued. But the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 changed that.
With certain exceptions, utility and plant applications filed beginning on November 29, 2000, are normally published promptly after the expiration of a period of eighteen months from the earliest domestic or foreign filing date of the application. Prior to that publication the application is still confidential to the patent office.
How Do You Recognize an Application Publication?
They are easy to spot. This is the top part of the cover sheet of a US Patent Office published application.
Notice first that it clearly is called a Patent Application Publication. Also notice the Pub. No. Publications have a numbering sequence that begins with the year (2005), followed by a backslash and a seven digit number, then the suffix A1. An A in the suffix of a patent number means publication all around the world. Issued patents by contrast have a B.
Below that top part of the cover sheet a publication looks pretty much like an issued US patent.
The publication of a patent application marks the date at which it is publicly available and therefore at which it forms full prior art for other patent applications worldwide.
It should be understood that a publication is still an application - and cannot be enforced as an issued patent in terms of infringement.
There are some potential monetary advantages to this. In exchange for publication of a patent application, patentees may be able to obtain a reasonable royalty during the period beginning on the date of publication of the application.
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Mike Ervin - Cost Effective Small Business Patent Protection.
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