This post is part of a series of posts entitled A Guide To Intellectual Property Protection. For a comprehensive list of articles contained in this series, click here.

On average, it takes between one to four years from the filing date of a patent application to obtain an issued patent. Some patent applications have remained pending for decades. However, the U.S. Patent Office has set a three (3) year period as its maximum target for reviewing a patent application (not counting continuation applications or other specified events). If the time period exceeds three years, then the patent term extension discussed above would be applicable. The applicant can also control to some extent the speed with which the application is processed by filing a very complete application and responding quickly to the Examiner’s Office Actions. The number of Office Actions issued will usually be limited to two, because the Examiner will denote the second Office Action as a final action. The applicant will then be required to either (i) prepare the application for issuance of any allowed subject matter, (ii) appeal the case to the Patent and Trademark Board of Appeals, or (iii) file a continuing application starting the examination and response process over again. At any time beginning with the first Office Action, the Examiner may find allowable subject matter and allow the application. The applicant may abandon the application at any time, even after allowance.