Once a patent Applicant pays an issue fee after receiving a notice of allowance from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), an issue notification follows shortly thereafter. The issue notification provides the Applicant with the patent number and an issue date. Continuation applications can be filed up to and on the day of the issue date mentioned in the issue notification. Before the USPTO switched to providing patent grants electronically, there was a significant amount of time (usually more than two weeks) between the date the issue notification is mailed and the issue date.
As of April 18, the USPTO has switched to providing patent grants electronically. This means that instead of mailing a physical copy of the patent grant to the correspondence address, the USPTO will provide the patent grant electronically via the Patent Center. The USPTO has indicated that an issue notification will be available electronically via the patent center, likely on the Wednesday or Thursday before the Tuesday that a patent grant is issued electronically. The Tuesday after the issue notification is available electronically, the patent will issue and the electronic patent grant publication will be uploaded to the patent center. For example, if an issue notification becomes available on Thursday 4/20, the patent would issue and the electronic grant publication would be available on the patent center on Tuesday 4/25. As a result, the amount of time between the mailing of the issue notification and the issue date will be reduced by approximately two weeks. This, in turn, has the effect of narrowing the window of opportunity to file a continuation application, a quick path information disclosure statement (QPIDS), or to withdraw the application from issue.
Attorneys and applicants should update their procedures to account for the reduced amount of time between the mailing of the issue notification and the issue date. A continuation application should ideally be filed by the date on which the issue fee is paid. Otherwise, the application file should be closely monitored for the release of the issue notification so that an Applicant knows when they have only a few days left to file a continuation application.