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How do I read an Office Action? 

Your patent application was filed, and now you've received a communication from the Patent Examiner who was assigned to the application (an "Office Action"), rejecting some or all of the claims. Now what? 

First, in the words of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "Don't Panic". Nearly all applications receive at least one Office Action. This collection of web pages will help you read the Office Action to see what the Examiner is really saying. 

Step 1: Look at the Cover Sheet

This will be the first page in your Office Action. We've highlighted a few important pieces of information in this sample. 

  • Application no.: This is the serial number of your application, and should match the number on your filing receipt (See "how to read a filing receipt"). If it doesn't, this may not be your Office Action - contact the Examiner for clarification. 

  • Examiner: This is the name of the person who has examined your application. 

  • Art Unit: The Examiners in the Patent Office are organized into "Technology Centers", which cover broad ranges of technologies, and the Technology Centers are further divided into "Art Units". Each Art Unit handles a specific type of invention, as defined by the USPTO's classification system or, after January 2015, the Cooperative Patent Classification. In this case, our Examiner is in Art Unit 3729 ("Manufacturing of Semiconductors, Superconductors, Nanotechnology, and Electrical Devices"), which is a part of Technology Center 3700 ("Mechanical Engineering, Manufacturing and Products")

  • Time Period for Reply: In the past, this was reported here on the cover sheet. However, you will now just find a note referring you to the "attached communication" to see how long you have. You'll find this information on the next page. 

  • Notification Date: This is the most important piece of information on the cover sheet - the time to reply to this Office Action starts from this date. Remember this date as we look at the next page to see how long we have to reply.  

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Don't forget our "Patent FAQ" page - it has lots of information about patents and the patent process. 

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