What does the expression “patent pending” mean?

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The meaning of the expression “Patent Pending” varies depending on the national law of each country. However, in principle this term is used in reference to:

-          the legal status of a patent application - “notice given (by the relevant Intellectual property office) that an application for a patent has been filed and that legal protection (including retroactive rights) may be forthcoming” – source: EPO

-          a warning notice that is affixed in products to inform the public that an application for a patent on that product was filed and to ward off potential infringers; even if not compulsory, such a notice can be particularly relevant in court infringement proceedings. On the other side, in most countries you are allowed to apply the term “patent pending” to a product only if there is, in fact, a pending patent application. If a product is marked with “patent pending” when there is no associated patent application, most national laws in the EU countries sanction this behaviour - usually under competition law and/or patent law.