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The University of Massachusetts Amherst


U.S. Patent Life Cycle

The five stages of a patent process




Each step in the above diagram links to a detailed explanation of the process at the USPTO website, also accessible here: USPTO Patent Process Overview.

The USPTO also has produced several educational videos on YouTube through the channel USPTOvideo. Below is an explanation of the patent process.

Who Makes the Rules and Where Can I Read Them?

OLRC homeThe Constitution of the United States provides:

“Art. 1, Sec. 8. The Congress shall have power . . . To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

Pursuant to the provision of the Constitution, Congress has over the years passed a number of statutes under which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is organized and our patent system is established. The provisions of the statutes can in no way be changed or waived by the USPTO.

Patent laws are codified in Title 35 of the United States Code. In referring to a particular section of the patent code the citation is given, for example, as, 35 U.S.C. 1. The United States Code is available online at

Upon occasion, additional provisions pertaining to patents are set forth in a Public Law but are not codified. The Public Laws are available at

The USPTO is authorized by statute, subject to the policy direction of the Secretary of Commerce, to establish regulations, not inconsistent with law, for the conduct of proceedings in the USPTO. The rules govern examiners and other Office personnel, applicants, patent practitioners, and third parties. These regulations or rules and amendments thereto are published in the Federal Register and in the Official Gazette. 

In the Federal Register and in the Code of Federal Regulations, the rules pertaining to patents are in Title 37, Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights. In referring to a particular section of the rules the citation is given, for example, as 37 CFR 1.31.

Manual of Patent Examnation Procedure (MPEP)

The Manual of Patent Examining Procedure or MPEP provides patent examiners and the public with a reference work on the practices and procedures relative to the prosecution of patent applications and other proceedings before the USPTO. The MPEP contains instructions to examiners, as well as other material in the nature of information and interpretation, and outlines the current procedures that examiners are required or authorized to follow in the normal examination of patent applications and during other Office proceedings.

   Official Gazette of the USPTO  

The Official Gazette (OG) is the official journal of the USPTO, published weekly on Tuesday, that includes bibliographic information and a representative drawing for each patent granted or trademark published on that issue date. There is a separate Official Gazette for Patents and Official Gazette for Trademarks, and the most recent 52 issues for each are available online. Search Official Gazette Notices: 1995 - Present

The Notices section of the Official Gazette contains important information and changes in rules concerning both patents and trademarks. 

New and proposed patent and trademark rules are published in the Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S.Federal government (sometimes called the "newspaper" of the government). It is published every business day by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)'s Office of the Federal Register (OFR).

The Federal Register contains:

  • Federal agency regulations
  • Proposed Rules and Notices of interest to the public
  • Executive orders
  • Proclamations
  • Other Presidential documents

Public Comment on Rule Changes

RulemakingPublic Review and Comments

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office continues to propose new initiatives to make its operations more efficient. These new initiatives include new rule changes and procedures that will help streamline the application processes for both patents and trademarks. Proposed rules are documented in Federal Register Notices.

The public is welcome to review and provide comments to the USPTO regarding these rule changes. All USPTO public comments are available on the USPTO site. You can find, review, and submit comments online for all proposed Federal regulations at

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