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Sorry for this extremely basic question, but it does not appear to be a duplicate.

What states may a patent be in? How does it get from one state to the next?

My understanding is the flow goes something like this:

  1. Applied for (unpublished, person/company submits to USPTO)
  2. Published (Cursory review by some board? Now it is visible publicly.)
  3. Granted (USPTO reviewers examine background and accept or deny)

I am guessing this is a naïve simplification, but I'm having trouble figuring out what the order actually is. (Is published a synonym for granted? Is there a granted date?)

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You have it basically right. First an application is submitted and it gets an application number and a tentative filing date. Over the next few weeks it is checked by administrative people for conformance and completeness with respect to formal requirements. They are not looking at content other then that the minimum requirements are met. These include internal consistently between the drawings' figure numbering and the specifications list of drawings. If formalities are not met the applicant gets a notice to provide missing parts or correct problems with the submission (but they can't add new subject matter at all). A deadline to fix the application is given; if not met the application can go abandoned. In that case it is never published. The application is kept in confidence by the USPTO and there is no way for the public to tell it exists.

Publishing is typesetting whatever the applicant submitted into a form that looks like a patent, assigning it a publication number and making the document available to the public. It is then searchable on the USPTO site, on google patents and many other patent document databases. This generally happens automatically 18 months from the initial filing as long as the application has not gone abandoned before that. It looks like a patent but could almost be gibberish.

At some later point it is examined for novelty and obviousness. There is back and forth between the examiner and the applicant, all publically visible after the application is published. The back and forth generally includes objections, rejections, arguments and amendments. The ultimate result might be a rejection that the applicant chooses not to respond to causing an abandonment. Another result can be a notice of allowance. After paying money, the final content is typeset and given another number, a patent number. When finished, it is issued as a granted patent on some particular day and the document is publically released. The term "published" is not usually used in regard to the issuing of the patent.

Issued and granted are almost synonyms.

This is a somewhat simplified explanation.

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Thanks. "Publicly visible back and forth" is new to me. The clarification on publishing (and that this generally happens 18 months after, which seemed like enough time to review/grant) is helpful. Does having a patent number mean it has not (will not?) be rejected? –  owenfi Sep 19 '13 at 6:30
    
The USPTO has a database called Public PAIR. The entire history of every published application and issued patent filed after mid 2003 is available to the public. By "back-and-forth" I was referring to all papers filed by the applicant and responded to by the examiner and visa versa. Eighteen months would be enough time for examination if there was not an eighteen month queue before it was first picked up by an examiner. Issuing a patent number means it has passed through the examination process and been allowed. That process may very well have included rejections along the way. –  George White Sep 19 '13 at 6:43
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