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As part of your work, you may deal with published patent documents resulting from a technology watch or sent by your board, which are identified by unique publication numbers.

The publication numbers all follow this format:

US ********** A1

The first code is the country code. While some codes can be easily identified, particularly because they correspond to ISO standards for country identifiers, others are specific to the patent system.

Among the most common country codes:

Some codes specific to the patent system:

  • WO, short for World, for PCT patent applications filed at the WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization,

  • EP, for European Patent, for patent applications filed at the EPO, the European Patent Office,

  • OA, for patent applications filed at the African Intellectual Property Organization or Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI),

  • EA, for patent applications filed at the Eurasian Patent Organization (EAPO),

  • AP, for patent applications filed at the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO),

  • GC, for patent applications filed at the Patent Office of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The stars ********* replace a unique number assigned by the office to the application when it is published. There is no particular rule, each office using an independent numbering system, usually an incremental one. The numbers may sometimes include the year of publication of the document.

The last code is composed of a letter, sometimes followed by a number. This code is managed by each country, and two identical codes do not necessarily have the same meaning in different countries.

The letter corresponds to the type of document published, and in most countries, we find the following correspondence:

  • A: means that the document is a patent application, i.e. that it has simply been filed with the office responsible for publishing it.

  • B: means that the document is a granted patent, i.e. that the office has proceeded to an examination and has decided to grant the patent.

  • U (e.g. in China and Germany): means that the document is a utility certificate or utility model, subject to a more flexible procedure and generally a shorter protection time.

The number that follows the letter has a variable meaning depending on the country, and can for example identify a document published with a search report (A1 for Europe and PCT for example), without a search report (A2 for Europe and PCT for example), the search report alone, a republication of a document, etc. These codes must therefore be checked on a case-by-case basis.

Following these explanations, here is some helpful advice:

  • The country code makes it possible to identify the territory covered by the document, in view of the determination of freedom-to-operate check or infringement: if it does not concern a territory of interest to you, it is necessary to search whether the invention has been the subject of a filing in other territories and whether the content of the document is the same in these other territories.

  • An "A" document is generally a patent application, which means that its scope of protection, defined by the claims, is subject to change or may have already been changed during examination: one must always check whether a patent has been granted before estimating the risks of infringement or evaluating the freedom-to-operate in view of the patent.

  • A published document is not necessarily in force, it may have been abandoned or rejected, even before its publication.

  • The content of a patent application or of a patent with a publication date prior to the filing date or priority date of this application is opposable to the patentability of an application, regardless of the territory it covers.

Your patent attorney can assist you with the interpretation of such documents to ensure their relevance regarding your inventions and products. It can be risky to misinterpret the scope of a document without a more thorough analysis of the territories covered and the status of the procedures.

Find all our articles on intellectual property on our blog #IPBoardingPass.

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