U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
photo by Lydia LaFaro
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
European Patent Office (EPO)
A patent is a government grant bestowing certain property rights on the inventor; these rights usually permit the inventor to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is responsible for examining patent applications and granting patents in the U.S. The USPTO is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. There are no Arizona State agencies involved in the patenting process.
World Intellectual Property Organization
There are over 100 countries and/or agencies worldwide that grant patents. Each country has its own laws governing intellectual property. See the Directory of Intellectual Property Offices (WIPO) for a listing.
Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
Patents designated as "WO" (ex. WO0116074) are PCT applications. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is an international agreement among 100+ countries so that an inventor may file a single international patent application that confers certain advantages. The most important advantage is the extention of the time period in which an inventor must file in other countries, thereby delaying expenditures and giving the inventor more time to consider the necessity or viability in filing with specific countries. By the end of the PCT time period, the inventor must file with those countries in which protection is desired. In the United States, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office handles PCT applications. For more information:
U.S. Patents have different "formats" depending on when they were issued. Starting in 1976 (and in some classifications prior to that), the first page is used to summorize the patent's information and is followed by the drawnings, description of the invention, and lastly (but most importantly) the claims. Prior to 1976 the first part of the patent contained the drawings followed by a page in which the first section was a very brief summary of the patent information, followed immediately by the description of the invention and lastly the claims.
View the image "Anatomy of a US Patent" in which the sections of a U.S. patent are identified. (Created by Michael White, Queens University)
The contents of the sections of a U.S. patent consists of:
Front Page (1976 to the present for all patents, some categories of patents from 1970 to the present); Summary Section (prior to 1970)
The drawings help convey the features of the invention and, along with the description, are used to explain all the claims.
The description is a detailed disclosure of the invention. In modern patents, the description generally starts with background information and then gives a full disclosure of the features of the invention. The description must be detailed enough so that someone who is "skilled" in that field could reproduce the invention plus the description must explain and support all the claims. Sometimes the description is called the specification(s) portion of the patent.
Although the claims are the last element of a patent, they are the most important part. This is where the inventor specifically states ("I claim") what s/he invented. Essentially the claims define what the inventor may prevent others from manufacturing, using and selling; the words and phrasing of the claims are critical to establishing the extent and/or limitations of the invention.
Although each country or patenting agency has it's own format and content for patents, essentially all patents contain the same information as U.S. Patents do:
In Espacenet's Worldwide Database, the searcher is given two choices to view the patent:
Be Aware: not all patents in the Espacenet's Worldwide Database have the full features/options listed above.
Want to know more about patents? The following is available from the USPTO:
Check the full Patent FAQs file for much more information.