What does “Patent Pending” mean?

Many products are marked “Patent Pending”, but what does this mean? The answer isn’t simple, as there are various possible meanings:

Meaning 1: The owner intends to secure granted complete patents and enforce his patent rights against copycats

The owner has filed a patent application (likely a provisional patent application) with the aim ultimately to file complete patents in select countries and prosecute these complete patents to grant. In the select countries, the product could remain “Patent Pending” for around 4.5 years before the owner is finally able to enforce his granted complete patent rights.

By marking his products “Patent Pending“, the owner is putting you on notice that one day he may secure patent rights, and be able to “protect” his invention.

Fisher price patent

Fisher Price is notorious for marking its products “Patent Pending”. Some they finally patented; but for others, there is no sign of any patent having been filed. Maybe they were just toying about.

Meaning 2: The owner wishes to deter competitors

The owner may have no intention to spend a lot of time and money securing granted complete patents in select countries, but instead simply filed a provisional patent application to enable him to mark his products “Patent Pending”. In 12 months, upon expiry of the provisional patent, the owner may discontinue marking his product “Patent Pending”. Alternatively, the owner may launch an “improved” version of the product that includes a “new feature” in respect of which he files another provisional patent, entitling him to continue marking the product “Patent Pending” for another 12 months.

Since provisional patents are secret documents, you are unable to find out what the owner included in his patent application / intends to patent.

what does patent pending mean?

Meaning 3: The owner is using “Patent Pending” for marketing purposes

Since marking a new product “Patent Pending” reinforces the claim that the product is “new”; and communicates to potential customers that the product includes innovative technology, the owner may simply be using “Patent Pending” as a marketing tool.

Don’t be surprised, it was this strategy that took Pantene Pro-V Shampoo to #1 selling shampoo worldwide.

what did Pantene Pro-V patent

How do you know which meaning is intended?

The simple answer is: you don’t. That’s why Patent Pending Numbers are so useful. You cannot “look under the hood” of a Patent Pending Number – it’s secret. And, even if the owner decides to follow up the provisional patent with a complete patent, you can only confirm this 18 months later. Also, unless the owner has associated the “Patent Pending” stamp with a patent application number, you have no idea whether the owner is intending to secure protectable rights, or is simply intending to “recycle” the “Patent Pending Number”.

How do you get a Patent Pending Number?

You too can get a Patent Pending Number by: engineering a new feature into your product; describing that feature (in normal English); uploading the description online; and paying $199 to file a provisional patent. by the next day, you will receive a Patent Pending Number that entitles you to mark your product “Patent Pending” worldwide for 12 months. See our provisional patent drafting and filing guide.

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