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Patents: Filing date versus priority date

From the client's perspective, patent attorneys may appear to use the expressions "filing date" and "priority date" interchangeably. These phrases actually have very different meanings.

A filing date is simply the date a patent application was filed in the Patent Office.

A priority date (sometimes called an effective filing date) however, is the earliest claimable filing date for an application.

Consider these two examples:

  1. An inventor files a provisional application on January 1, 2012. One year later, on Jan. 1, 2013 the inventor files a regular application claiming priority in the provisional.

In that scenario, the regular application has a 2013 filing date, but a January 2012 priority date.

  1. A second inventor simply files a regular patent application, not claiming priority in any other application, on January 1, 2013.

The second inventor's application has Jan. 1, 2013 as both a filing date and priority date .

Having an early priority date can be important.

If a prior art reference dated June 15, 2012 is dicsovered, anticipating the inventions, the first inventor could rely on his January 1, 2012 priority date to get around the prior art. The second inventor could not.

Additional resources provided by the author

For more information on priority rights, or to discuss a priority issue concerning a particular matter, please feel free to contact our office.

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