What are Parent and Child Patent Applications?

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A parent application is the first non-provisional patent application that is filed or submitted for an invention. A parent application may include several inventions. A child application is later filed or submitted on a parent application. 

A child patent application can be filed while a parent application is still in the pending stage i.e., not granted or abandoned. In other words, a child patent application cannot be filed or submitted after the grant of the parent patent application. A child patent application is linked with the parent patent application and thus the child application can get the benefit of the priority date of the parent application. There are three types of Child Patent Applications i.e., 

  • Continuation 
  • Continuation-In-Part (CIP) 
  • Divisional Application 

After submitting a patent non-provisional application, it takes time to get the application approved by the patent office. In the meantime, you may come up with more updates and improvements which may be important to the invention. You can then implement such changes by filing a Continuation application or a Continuation-In-Part (CIP) application.  You may also file a divisional application. Let’s discuss in more detail the above-mentioned child applications. 

Table of Contents

What are Parent and Child Patent Applications?

Continuation Application 

In a continuation application, no new disclosure is added. You can just add different or new claims which have support in the description of the parent patent application. In other words, the continuation application allows you to modify the claims only while the specification remains the same. 

“An inventor can file a continuation at any time before the patenting, abandonment, or termination of proceedings on a previous non-provisional application,” according to the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP). The continuation allows the inventor to include a new set of claims in the application and secure further examination by the primary examiner.” 

The continuation application can be filed at any time before granting or abandonment of an earlier non-provisional patent application i.e., the parent patent application. The continuation application must include the name of at least one of the inventors listed in the parent application. 

A continuation application can be useful when the parent application does not fully encompass all aspects of the invention, or when the applicant wants to target a design that has support from the description in the parent application. 

Benefits of a Continuation Application 

  • Claims Broadening: By filing a continuation application, you can increase the scope of your application without filing an entirely new application.  
  • Targeting your competitors: By filing a continuation application you may add or modify claims such that they can cover the scope of your target competitor’s product features, obviously only if the relevant supporting text is present in the parent application.   
  • Examination period extension: By filing a continuation application you can get some more time for the examination. 

Continuation-In-Part (CIP) Application 

The continuation-in-part or CIP application allows you to add new matter in the specification in addition to the claims. You can see it as an add-on to the existing parent application. A divisional application is generally used by the applicant in cases where the parent application describes more than one invention.  

Hence, the limitations of a continuation application that stops you to modify the specification can be overcome by filing a CIP application. The CIP application can be filed during the lifetime of the earlier non-provisional patent application i.e., the parent patent application. The Continuation-In-Part application must include the name of at least one inventor listed in the parent application. 

This application allows you to improve the original design. It is also important to note that claims in the Continuation-In-Part application that pertain to the subject matter disclosed in the parent application are entitled to the filing date of the parent application.  However, claims that are related to the newly added subject matter are only entitled to claim the filing date of the CIP application. 

Depending on the requirement, it may be better to choose a continuation application instead of CIP while vice versa is true in some cases.

Benefits of a Continuation-In-Part (CIP) Application

  • Addition of new subject matter: By filing a CIP application you can add new subject matter to support important features of the claims. 
  • Prosecution Cost & Maintenance fee Reduction:  A CIP application allows you to streamline your patent prosecution to one family of patent applications. Hence the cost of prosecution & managing two separate families of patent applications is reduced as you don’t have to file a new application. 
What are Parent and Child Patent Applications?

Divisional Patent Application 

 The divisional application is used when the parent application covers more than one invention. The applicant must divide the parent application into one or more divisional applications, each only covering a single invention or a group of inventions that are closely related and make up a single general inventive concept. 

A divisional application may be required by the examiner during an office action to ensure that the patent application meets the “unity of invention” requirement. This requirement is in place to prevent an applicant from filing a single patent application for multiple inventions while only paying one set of fees. 

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