Using USPTO Public PAIR Part 1

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USPTO PAIR (the United States Patent and Trademark Office Patent Application Information Retrieval – boy that’s a mouthful) is a free site where users can check on the status of US patent applications and gain access to the correspondence documents between the applicant and the patent examiner (also called the file history or the file wrapper). Today I’ll show you how to access PAIR to to start gleaning information that can help you on a prior art search by exposing the inner workings of patent prosecution. In additional installments I’ll delve into specific documents within the file history.

To quote the USPTO’s PAIR Frequently Asked Questions:

PAIR is the Patent Application Information Retrieval system that displays information regarding patent application status. There is both a Public and Private side to PAIR. “ Public PAIR ” only displays issued or published application status. To access Public PAIR, you need only have a patent, application, or publication number that you wish to search. “Private PAIR” is the Patent Application Information Retrieval system developed to provide secure access for customers who want to view current patent application status electronically via the Internet.

This post will focus on Public PAIR, specifically interesting documents in the file history.

After entering the reCAPTCHA on the Public PAIR homepage, users must enter one of the following document identifying numbers:

  • Application Number
  • Control Number
  • Patent Number
  • PCT Number
  • Publication Number

The website does a good job of explaining what these numbers are and in which formats users can input them correctly. After entering a correctly formatted number, the system will display the record if it is accessible to the public. Again, according to the PAIR FAQ:

Public PAIR provides access to public applications including: patents, published applications, and applications to which a patented or published application claims domestic priority. PCT applications that have not been published by WIPO and any applications that have not been released by the USPTO Licensing and Review Board will not be viewable in Public PAIR. Prosecution history and document images for Chapter II are not viewable in Public PAIR.

Once a record has been accessed, the following tabs of data can be accessed:

  • Application Data – This houses all of the bibliographic data such as application number, status, publication number, examiner name, class/subclass, inventor, and title among other fields.
  • Transaction History – A list of transactions during the prosecution as well as the date on which they occurred.
  • Image File Wrapper – The file wrapper contains PDF images of the various stages of prosecution (ie. applicant submitted claims, fee worksheets, non-final rejections, list of references, issue information etc.). Individual documents can be selected via checklist and downloaded free of charge.
  • Patent Term Adjustments – This tab gives the history of patent term adjustments petitioned and received, although no individual documents are available for public download.
  • Continuity Data – If the record has any parent or child continuity data, the document numbers will be listed (and linked, if possible) here.
  • Fees – This tab generates a pop up window with the data needed to inquire about whether fees are up to date (from another part of the USPTO website).
  • Published Documents – If there are related published documents they are listed here with links to view the full-text and image of said documents as well as access their respective PAIR entries.
  • Address & Attorney/Agent – Correspondence address for the attorney prosecuting the case as well as the other attorney/agents involved.

Later this week, I’ll get more in depth with the Image File Wrapper section. Until then, I want to know, do you use PAIR? If you do, how do you use it? Let us know in the comments if this is something you already use as part of your prior art search and/or legal work, or if this is new to you.

Read part 2.

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Patent Information from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Intellogist Team member Chris Jagalla.


11 Responses

  1. I frequently use PAIR to review patent/application status, fees, issued claims and correspondence. This is useful when analyzing patents that have already been identified. It is not useful for “prior art searching.” Unless there is some way to search through the PAIR documents, especially reference text and office actions… To date I do not know of any service that lets you search application file histories. Thanks for the basic refresher,


  2. Hi Mike,

    I agree that not having the ability to search through the file history is a major impediment. However, file histories ordered through Landon IP are in one file, fully bookmarked, and searchable (Disclaimer: Intellogist is owned by Landon IP). Aside from this, there are other ways to utilize the file history that will help your prior art search that I’ll touch on when part two goes up later this week. There is information in a couple key places that can be a jumping off point for your search.

    Thanks for the engaging comment as always!

  3. I use PAIR to watch a few applications, and I would consider it a potential source for copies of priority documents.
    As far as prior art searching goes I do consider the search report provided with PCT applications, so this would be an extension of that for the US, although any prior art patent numbers found in PAIR are probably also published on the front page of the specification.

  4. PAIR is a goldmine of information. I use it often, but still have much to learn. Looking forward to your follow-on articles.

  5. Thanks for the input insomniac and Curtis!

  6. Thanks for the refresher on PAIR use. I haven’t used it in awhile, but it is nice to be reminded of how useful it is.

  7. […] Previously, I showed how to access USPTO PAIR to examine public records of a patent application’s prosecution as well as identify any related US patent documents. PAIR is an important part of any prior art searcher’s tool belt because the US patent system is such a large store of information and PAIR gives users limited access to the inner-workings of that store, providing info on related documents that a given search system may not have as well as making available the file history which contains a treasure trove of information that can be mined for help on your search. […]

  8. Thanks Fred; glad to see you read the blog!

  9. I filed a provisional patent application using EFS. What are the transaction status “steps” for a PPA? Can your reference any USPTO flow chart or outline?

  10. Tim,

    I’m not sure what you mean by transaction status “steps” for a provisional patent application.

    I have found a couple of parts of the USPTO website that may help direct you, however:

  11. […]  with the USPTO related to a particular  patent application.  The Intellogist Blog has posted a two part guide on how to use the public PAIR portal, and we’ve located the File Wrapper for the […]

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