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What is the PTO?

The PTO is the short form usually used to refer to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, an office of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the government body responsible for granting and overseeing patents (as well as trademarks). Thus, patent applications are submitted to the PTO, and when a patent is granted to an inventor, that grant is issued from the PTO.

Within the PTO are various employees known as examining attorneys, or simply examiners.  These examiners review submitted patent applications, determining whether a patent can be granted to the submitting inventor.  Often, this requires the examiner to work with the submitting inventor (or, more often than not, the submitting inventor’s attorney) to address the examiner’s concerns about the patent application and whether it meets the formal requirements for obtaining a patent. This process of obtaining a patent from the PTO is known as “patent prosecution.”

For more information about the PTO, you can go to its surprisingly useful website.