MPEP Q & A 246: Will the paper application file itself be available to the public for inspection?

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Question:

If a published patent application is pending and it is not maintained in the IFW system, will the paper application file itself be available to the public for inspection?

Answer:

Published applications maintained in the IFW system are available on the USPTO Web site in the public Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system.

  • If the published patent application is pending and it is not maintained in the IFW system, the paper application file itself will not be available to the public for inspection.
    • Only copies of the application file may be obtained.
  • If the published patent application is abandoned, the entire application is available to the public for inspection and obtaining copies.

Chapter Details:

The answer to this question can be found in chapter 100 of the MPEP. This chapter covers Secrecy, Access, National Security, and Foreign Filing.

The answer is from the 9th Edition, Revision 10.2019. Depending on future changes to the MPEP, the question and answer may or may not be applicable in later Editions or revisions.

Section Summary:

This question and answer come from section 103 of the MPEP.  The following is a brief summary of section 103.

103 Right of Public to Inspect Patent Files and Some Application Files

37 C.F.R. 1.11 discusses the rights the public has to inspect files (such as patents and certain types of applications). This section outlines the exact documents accessible to the public. It includes a brief discussion on accessing image file wrapper (IFW) applications, access to published U.S. patent applications, unpublished abandoned and pending applications that are identified, and access where part of an application is incorporated by reference in a U.S. patent application publication or a U.S. patent.

In addition, this section covers petitions for access by third parties, access where a patent relies on the filing date of an earlier but still pending application, access to provisional applications, access to applications involved in interferences or trials through the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, defensive publications, reissue applications, and requests for reexamination.

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