The United States Patent and Trademark Office has an online system called the Public Pair.  You can use it to review the status of a patent application, read the discussion of how a patent was issued, or follow the discussion a patent owner is having during a rewrite.  The system is not super easy, but once you see the basics, it is a great source of information.

Here are the steps to take a look under the hood of any patent.

  1. Go to the Public Pair website of the USPTO. ( )
  2. Enter the number from the Captcha system to gain access.
  3. Select the radio button for Patent Number and enter the patent number in the entry box below. Example 8336805
  4. This shows the record.  Now select the tab marked “Image File Wrapper”
  5. This is the full history of the patent submission and review. Each step of the process from initial submission to the fees for publication. You can read the claims as they initially filed them and the “prior art” that was submitted by the inventor and what was discovered by the patent examiner looking through the database of US patents. Each document is available in PDF form, or, you can check the box at the top right hand corner and download the entire file as on PDF by clicking on the “PDF” button next to it. Most of the documents of just legal steps, but the discussions of the claims and how the inventor answers are interesting. Gives a real look into the true intent of the patent and how deeply anyone actually looked for prior art. ( The answer is that the prior art search is always very limited ).
  6. One more step. Click the tab marked “Continuity Data”.  This shows if the patent is connected to anything else, in the case of 8336805,  the Continuity Data shows a pending internal re-examination with a new number. Clicking on the number 14/037,593 opens a new window on the data that they are trying to rewrite.

Knowing the Public Pair system is key to understanding how the Patent Office grants patents and where the strengths and weaknesses lie.