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What does 'patent pending' mean?

Look on the bottom of many products you see on the shelves of stores around the Upper Midwest and you'll likely see one of two stamps. One provides the patent number of the product. Another says patent pending.

While not the same thing as a patent number, the second stamp is still a mark of intellectual property value. Being able to put patent pending on a product tells the world that the inventor or manufacturer is conscious of the item's uniqueness and that steps are underway to protect against possible infringements by anyone who might try to foist a copy on consumers.

Pending's not bad

The right to designate a product as having patent pending is an important one for a couple of reasons. First, in the fast-paced world in which we live, new products are coming on the market at a rapid-fire rate. With the filing of a patent application, whether it is done on a provisional or non-provisional basis, the filer receives the right to stake exclusive monetization rights for an idea. In some cases that might mean the inventor produces and sells the product himself. Alternatively, it might mean licensing the idea to another company.

Another reason why the patent pending moniker is important is that rights attach immediately and it can take a long time for an application to reach the point of patent issued. Of course, there's also the chance that the patent could be rejected. Either way, the final determination could take two or more years and that is time a patent pending holder can use for generating revenue.

What becomes apparent is that the benefit of patent filing is the immediate protection it provides to the inventor – even if it takes years to get the filing through all the government hoops.

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