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Patents or Patent Applications say wait what?
I noticed on a few sites and some people in forums, they were tossing around words such as "patented" "Canon patents" etc when referring to Patent Applications. A patent and a patent application are two seperate entities. In a short summary, this is wrong, and I decided that maybe a little overview on what a patent is, how it becomes a patent and the steps involved isn't such a bad idea.
- Company A decides to apply for a Patent of a Widget
- They search for any patents that are the same or similar to their Widget
- If not, they determine the type of application and whether to file globally or simply in their local regional country
- They then file the Application. After filing and after a period of time the application is published. This allows any competitive patent holders to dispute this application.
- The application is then assigned an examiner who checks the application and decides if the application merits a patent
- If the patent according to the examiner doesn't merit a patent, the company can request reconsideration and appeal the decision, otherwise if the examiner apporoves the application; they pay patent and publication fees and the patent for their Widget is issued.
The steps are long, involved and take a considerable amount of time and money to complete from step 1 to the point of having a patent. You may never get a patent, and there's a variety of reasons why that may happen.
What we tend to publish is patent applications. They may never become patents; however, they clearly identify something that Canon (or any other company) is either thinking about or working on in advance of them implementing it.
That's not to say that Canon won't implement technology on a pending patent, but they have to have a very reasonable assurance internally that it's definitely going to get passed and a patent created before they do so; otherwise they open themselves up to lawsuits over patent infringement from other patent holders.
How can you tell if it's an application or an actual patent? Actually that's usually quite easy, unlike the patent process :) Usually a patent application will have the year of patent application publication in the number, whereas a patent will not.
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