The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced the launch of the Patent Application Alert Service, a system for providing email alerts when patent applications of interest are published.

The service is provided at no charge, after registration on the site.

Users can customize their queries based on a variety of criteria. For example, users can set alerts for applications:

  • By particular inventors or assignees
  • Containing specific keywords
  • Having certain CPC classifications

The email notification of publication will include a link to the full text and images of the patent application.

Crowdsourcing Prior Art

Users may also contribute prior art for any published patent applications that are being examined, via this page.

Submitting prior art that shows that a purported invention is not actually “novel” (and thus patent-eligible) can be a cost-effective way to block the issuance of a patent, or limit its scope, and thus avoid (or limit) the need to pay licensing fees to a patent holder or face litigation for infringement.

According to the USPTO,

35 U.S.C. 122(e) provides a mechanism for third parties to submit patents, published patent applications, or other printed publications of potential relevance to the examination of a patent application with a concise description of the asserted relevance of each document submitted.

The submissions must be made before:

  • The later of (i) six months after the date of publication, or (ii) the date of a first Office action on the merits rejecting any claims, OR
  • The date of a notice of allowance.

A user may submit three prior art documents for free. Additional documents may be filed for a fee of $180 for each 10 documents submitted. Only printed, published documents may be submitted; the Patent Office will not accept unpublished or internal documents.

About 2,600 submissions have been received by the USPTO since the pre-issuance submission process was established by the America Invents Act in 2012.

The idea for the email alert service grew out of a public roundtable held at the USPTO in 2014, where the Office sought input on the use of crowdsourcing to identify prior art that could potentially block the issuance of patents.