Business Patent Law, PLLC

What is a Priority Date for Patents?

The priority date, under US law, is the filing date of the first Patent Application (Provisional or Nonprovisional) to which a Nonprovisional Patent Application claims benefit. Depending on the facts of each case, the claim of priority must be established prior to the expiration of the Provisional Application, abandonment of the Nonprovisional Application, or the grant of the Patent.

Why is a Patent’s Priority Date a Big Deal?

Among other things, the USPTO can only use references that were available prior to the priority date to reject the claims of the Nonprovisional Patent Application.  In other words, the USPTO cannot use inventions filed after this priority date to reject the claims of a Nonprovisional Patent Application. So if a competitor invents something while you are waiting for the Patent Office’s review, the earlier the filing date or priority date, the less prior art the Examiner can use to reject your Patent Application.

This matters because it may be two, four, or more years after you file your Nonprovisional Application before the USPTO starts detailed examination of your application.

What If I Made Earlier Filings?

A Nonprovisional Patent Application can claim the benefit of an earlier Provisional Application or a previously filed Nonprovisional Application. If a Nonprovisional Patent Application doesn’t claim the benefit of a Provisional Application or priority based on a previously filed Nonprovisional Application, the priority date is the filing date on the original Nonprovisional Patent Application.

What the US Code Says

35 United States Code (U.S.C.) 120

35 U.S.C. 120, in part reads, “An application for patent for an invention disclosed in the manner provided by section 112(a) (other than the requirement to disclose the best mode) in an application previously filed in the United States, or as provided by section 363 or 385 which names an inventor or joint inventor in the previously filed application shall have the same effect, as to such invention, as though filed on the date of the prior application, if filed before the patenting or abandonment of or termination of proceedings on the first application or on an application similarly entitled to the benefit of the filing date of the first application and if it contains or is amended to contain a specific reference to the earlier filed application…”

35 U.S.C. 119(e)

35 U.S.C. 120(e), in part reads, “(1) An application for patent filed under section 111(a) or section 363 for an invention disclosed in the manner provided by section 112(a) (other than the requirement to disclose the best mode) in a provisional application filed under section 111(b), by an inventor or inventors named in the provisional application, shall have the same effect, as to such invention, as though filed on the date of the provisional application filed under section 111(b), if the application for patent filed under section 111(a) or section 363 is filed not later than 12 months after the date on which the provisional application was filed and if it contains or is amended to contain a specific reference to the provisional application…”

Examples: How Priority Date for Patent Applications Works

Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies. If you need legal assistance in preparing Patent Applications, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

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