This post is a high level overview of the patent prosecution process.
A typical soup to nuts process in the USPTO lasts about three to five years. After the application is filed and granted a filing date, the application will be placed in a queue. This queue usually accounts for the single longest period of delay between filing and allowance.
Eventually, every application gets assigned to a technology center (TC). A TC represents a group of examiners that specialize in a particular field of art. For example Chemistry, Biology, Electronics, will all have separate TCs. Once a TC is selected internally by the PTO, an application will stay in another queue until an examiner is assigned. In our experience, a selection of an examiner often happen very quickly. However, that does not mean the application will be processed sooner.
Prosecution officially begins, most of the time, once the application has been assigned to an examiner’s docket. However, there will usually be a few months before an examiner responds with a notice of allowance (very unlikely) or a first office action (most common).
The first office action (OA) will set a statutory time for reply (usually 3 months). This period can be extended by an additional 5 months for a fee. This extension fee gets very expensive as delay lengthens. Therefore, a delay longer than 1 to 2 months after the first 3 free months is not recommended. For a responsible and diligent attorney, such as Joshua Kaplan of Kaplan Law Practice, a three month period is usually enough time to produce a reply
In most cases. the examiner will review your reply and either respond with a notice of allowance or issue another Office Action containing a final rejection. One Office Action is great because it saves time and money for our clients and we always strive to achieve this result.
A final rejection does not mean that all hope is lost. After the final rejection, the applicant can request continued examination and pay a fee (basically continue examination), or appeal. The practice after the final rejection is complex and expensive. Therefore, if until now the inventor has been carrying on his or her own, a receipt of the final rejection should signal that it is time to hire an attorney. In many cases, retaining a competent counsel to draft and file your application, such as the services of Kaplan Law Practice, LLC. of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, could have avoided the final rejection altogether.
If all goes well, a patent issues within a month or two after payment of the notice of issue.