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An applicant submits a patent application describing the invention to the Patent Office, where the application enters the queue for examination. The Patent Office determines whether the patent application complies with federal patent law and Patent Office regulations. As part of the examination procedure, the Patent Office examines the application to determine whether the claimed invention is novel, non-obvious, and directed to patentable subject matter. The applicant is entitled to respond to any rejections and, within limits, to amend the patent claims. After an application is filed, the application will typically have a delay of between a few months to a few years before undergoing substantive examination. Once substantive examination begins, it typically involves a series of correspondences between the applicant and the Patent Office in which the scope of protection that may be afforded to the applicant’s invention is addressed.

The substantive examination process often takes 1-5 years to complete. In some cases, such as when a rejection is appealed, it may even take longer than 5 years.

A typical overview of the patent application process for a utility patent:

Patent Application Process Chart