Suppose I'm granted a patent a month from now and it lasts for 20 years. This means that the patent bureau (such as USPTO) will have created a record which stores the patent claims and also the information about who the inventor is and who holds the protection rights.

Those 20 years pass and the patent no longer guarantees protection. What happens to the records in the patent bureau (such as USPTO)? Are they expected to be stored forever or are they discarded after some time?

Or suppose the maintenance fees are not paid (because the patent looks useless) and so protection is stopped earlier than in 20 years. What happens to the records?

How long are patent records stored and under which conditions they may be destroyed?

  • 1
    An expired patent still has importance as prior art. My guess is they are stored forever.
    – Eric S
    Dec 26, 2019 at 13:44
  • Also, if you have a patent grant a month from now, it'll probably expire in about 17 years since the 20 year term starts with the filing date.
    – Eric S
    Dec 26, 2019 at 18:07

1 Answer 1


They have images of patents stored back to the early 1800's - I do not think you need to worry about them being deleted.

  • 3
    Actually they atore all patents, back to US Patent #1, issued in 1790 by George Washington to Samuel Hopkins for a process of making potash, a fertilizer ingredient.
    – Howlium
    Sep 22, 2020 at 23:59
  • In Germany many of the files have been destroyed after some time (but only the files, not the patent publications). At the USPTO I don't know.
    – user18033
    Jan 20, 2021 at 21:49
  • The U.S. has images but it does not keep new paper applications any longer than it takes to scan them. Older file wrappers are stored on paper but are being scanned and disposed of.
    – George White
    Jan 21, 2021 at 2:23

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