A published patent specification:
“could be either a granted patent or a patent application”
Why? A publication of a patent specification does not mean it is a granted patent. In most countries, there is at least one publication of a patent specification before it is granted. Under the PCT, as well in most countries, the first publication of a patent specification is 18 months after the earliest priority date. Such publication makes the invention known to the public in general, but does not give enforcement rights to the applicant. If the patent is granted, the applicant may be able to claim damages for infringement of the protected invention as of the publication date in the countries that provide for that sort of protection. Before November 29, 2000, the application process for a patent in the United States was secret, and publication of the patent specification occurred only when the patent was granted. Now, the U.S. publishes applications 18 months after filing. The status of the publication can be inferred by the number assigned to the publication or a combination of the publication number and a letter indicating whether it is a patent application or an issued patent.