After a patent application has been filed, a person at the US Patent Office has to review the application and decide whether the application deserves to become a patent. The person who does this review is called a Patent Examiner.
The Examiner looks to make sure the application fulfills all of the requirements that the US Code sets out for a patent (mainly, 35 USC 101, 102, 103 and 112). The Examiner will reject any application that does not fulfill these requirements — ie, s/he won’t allow the application to become a patent. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s not unusual for the Examiner to make a rejection the first time s/he looks at an application.
Once an applicant gets a rejection, s/he gets to rebut it. In other words, the applicant gets to say why the Examiner is wrong. This process of rejection and rebuttal is known as “Patent Prosecution”. Sometimes people hear prosecution and think of going to court — but that’s not the case here at all! Patent Prosecution refers to the negotiation between the applicant and the Patent Office about whether a patent application should be allowed as a patent.
In future posts: What does patent prosecution look like from the inventor’s perspective? What do MSPL students learn about patent prosecution?