It's a bit difficult to capture the essence of what a patent is about in the space of a title. Unfortunately, patent numbers and legal jargon doesn't really tell anyone about the inherent issues behind each question.

So how should we format prior art questions to capture the interests of those who are knowledgeable about the subject? What information should be included in the title, text, and tags?

Our home page is the key to finding interesting questions. How do you capture that moment when someone looks at a question and says, "Whoa, yeah… I have something to say about that!"


2 Answers 2


A list of currently active Prior Art Requests can be found here: PRIOR ART REQUESTS

A prior art request for a U.S. Patent Application or an issued U.S. Patent should follow the format below.

Asking the community to challenge a patent application is easy. Follow these steps to post your very own request for prior art:

  1. Click "edit" on this answer
  2. Copy the text inside the horizontal rules and
  3. Paste it in the title, body, and tag section of a new question at Ask Patents
  4. Replace all bracketed text (and brackets) with unique info about the patent application that you want to challenge.
  5. Then click "Post Your Question," to publish your request for prior art at Ask Patents, and share to ensure your request for prior art (RFPA) receives maximum exposure.

Happy hunting. Find filler text below.


[Quick description (Assignee name)] - Patent Application - PRIOR ART REQUEST


HELP SAVE [INDUSTRY THREATENED BY OVERLY BROAD APPLICATION IN QUESTION] - This application from [Assignee name] seeks to patent [quick, sensational description of invention described by application]! 10 minutes of your time can help narrow this US patent application before it becomes a patent.

QUESTION - Have you seen anything that was published before [Priority Date note: priority dates are typically equivalent to an application's filing date, but not always. See here for more.] that discusses:

  • [Description of stated invention, in plain English note: include more than 1 bullet if multi-step process is essential to invention]

If you've ever seen anything like this before, please submit evidence of prior art as an answer to this question -- one piece of prior art per answer. We welcome multiple answers from a single individual.

EXTRA CREDIT - Include a reference to anything that meets all of the criteria to the question above AND ALSO [extra detail of stated invention that appears tangentially essential to idea].

TITLE: [Application name]

Summary: [A multi-sentence description of the invention described in the patent application translated into plain old English. Feel free to borrow liberally from the application's Abstract.]

  • Publication Number: [Application number]([Google Patents URL])

    Note: inserting a URL for the placeholder text will turn the application number into a hyperlink

  • Assignee: [Assignee name]

  • Prior Art Date: Seeking prior Art predating [Priority Date]
  • Open for Challenge at USPTO: Open through [Final Challenge Date]

    Note: the open for challenge date is typically as soon as six months after the publication date, but sometimes earlier and sometimes later. See here for more info.]

Claim 1 requires each and every step below:

[First claim intro, verbatim from application note: common first claim intros include "A method ... comprising," "A method ... wherein," "A system comprising," and similar constructions.]:

  1. [First step of claim 1 in stated invention, verbatim from application]

  2. [Second step of claim 1 in stated invention, verbatim from application]

  3. [Third step of claim 1 in stated invention, verbatim from application *note: there may more or less than 3 steps in ]

Note: Remember that during patent prosecution the language of the claims can change drastically and with it the claimed subject matter. It may not be sufficient to copy and paste from Google Patents. The poster should also go to Public PAIR and copy the latest claims when posting a prior art request. See here for more information.

In English this means:

  1. [First step of claim 1 translated into plain old English]
  2. [Second step of claim 1 translated into plain old English]
  3. [Third step of claim 1 translated into plain old English]

Good prior art would be evidence of a system that did each and every one of these steps prior to [Priority Date].

You're probably aware of ten pieces of art that meet this criteria already... separately, the applicant is claiming a method using all of the steps above and including [extra detail provided in Extra Credit section].

[Image note: this is where you may choose to upload a diagram taken from the patent application. We recommend uploading an image that is eye-catching, and quickly communicates the essence of the invention described in the patent application.]

What is good prior art? Please see our FAQ.

Want to help? Please vote or comment on submissions below. We welcome you to post your own request for prior art on other questionable US Patent Applications.

The tags:

  1. to indicate that it is related to the search for prior;
  2. for patent applications or for issued patents.
  3. (substituting your Patent Application number)
  4. (assignee name if well-known company)

  • I like the idea of this answer, but it isn't possible to suggest an edit on a meta answer, apparently.
    – JDMc
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 22:22

The question implies, that the patent has not yet been granted and the application is still being prosecuted.

Then it is important to know, that during patent prosecution, the language of the claims can change drastically and with it the claimed subject matter.

As an example, during prosecution the patent examiner often issues a non-final rejection and in response the patent owner amends the claims to overcome the rejection. If the patent application publication has been published before this action, the claims in the publication are outdated and obsolete.

Therefore, it is not sufficient to copy&paste the claims from the patent application publication. It is of paramount importance to access Public PAIR and check what the current language of the claims is!

The community needs to have the latest version of the claims to find relevant prior art!

How to retrieve the current claims:

  1. Go to Public Pair at the USPTO
  2. Pass the captcha
  3. Enter the application number (e.g. 13/371,137)
  4. Click search. Now you see the Bibliographic Data of this patent application.
  5. Click "Image File Wrapper" tab.
  6. Search for "Claims".

In the application given as example above, you find an amended (2013-07-01) set of claims right at the top of the document list.

  • I modified the accepted answer to include your suggestion @D.Sachse. Thanks! Commented Nov 15, 2013 at 22:56
  • @MicahSiegel: Awesome! On another note: I wanted to discuss your template above but I see no "add comment" option to comment on your answer above. Strange! Do you know why this is? I also asked the community for help: meta.patents.stackexchange.com/questions/191
    – Daniel K.
    Commented Nov 15, 2013 at 23:54

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