What is Patent Pending

Patent pending is used by inventors to let the public know they have filed a patent application with the relevant parent and trademark authority. Patent pending is a legal designation that can be used with any type of patentable process or product to denote that a patent has been applied for but has not yet been granted. Such a designation serves as a means of notifying the public, other businesses or inventors, notably possible parent or trademark infringers, that they could be held liable for damages once a patent is issued. Such disclosure wording may vary depending on the jurisdiction and may include "patent applied for," "pat. pend," or "pat pending."

Breaking Down Patent Pending

A patent pending disclosure (when an inventor files for a patent but has yet to receive one) affords an inventor with some legal recourse if a competitor tries to imitate their invention should their original patent application is granted. In such a case the infringer may be sued for patent infringement and the patent holder may be able to collect damages, such as back-dated royalties, or may be able to get an injunction or effect a seizure of the items that infringed on their patent.  

Patent Pending in Use

Inventors might use the term “patent pending” in marketing materials, on product packaging and on the product itself. A patent-pending notice does not have to be given in a specified way, and some inventors use variations of the term, such as “Pat. Pend.” Once a patent has been granted or denied, the inventor can no longer use the words “patent pending.” Many jurisdictions allow for the filing of a provisional patent application, a simpler and less expensive process than filing a regular patent application, is sufficient to use the words “patent pending” and may be an appealing alternative for inventors who want to start using this term as soon as possible. For more on provisional patent applications, see the 

Patent Pending Rules

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) does not allow an inventor to apply the words “patent pending” to an invention unless they are true. In fact, it imposes fines of up to $500 for violations, which are considered false marketing. These words are useful because an inventor might want to begin marketing an item during the lengthy patent-approval process – which typically takes one to three years but can take as long as five years or more. For more, see the USPTO's Patent Process Overview informational page.

Once granted, a patent is only valid for up to 20 years from the patent-application filing date for utility and plant patents, and 14 years from the date the patent was granted for design patents. Given the limited time an invention can be protected by patent, it makes sense to seek the benefits of a potential patent as early as possible.