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I am aware of a patent application that has been filed that I wish to challenge.

I know the application number, but the it was recently filed and is not publicly available for review on the USPTO website.

I'm trying to understand how long it usually takes before such applications become available for review and comment, and how that process works in general so I can best prepare information to present regarding prior art.

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The default case for a U.S. patent application is to be published 18 months from the earliest claimed priority date. That might be 18 months from filing. In the case the priority document was a provisional application and a non-provisonal application is filed just before the 12 month point, the publication will be 18 months from the provisional filing or 6 months after the non-provisonal filing.

In the U.S. there isn't really a third party per-allowance challenge the way there is in many other countries. With the AIA we now have a way to submit a certain class of prior art during a particular time window via a process that obliges the examiner to look at the submitted material. Their is not an ability to present arguments but there is a limited facility to express why and what about the references are relevant.

There is also an older, little used mechanism called a protest that can only be filed in a different time wind. It can only be filed pre-publication. It needs to identify the application. In most cases per-publication no one even knows the application is filed. You can learn more about it here.

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