When you have invented something new,
one of the most critical things that you can do to protect it is to file a patent application. This is more easily said than done. U.S. patent law requires that each patent application meet certain
requirements. Moreover, there are optional aspects to
patent applications. Including these aspects or omitting them may be critical to achieving the broadest possible protection for your invention.
When patent protection is crucial to maintaining your rights, then it is vital that your application is properly drafted. Frequently, that means leaving the task to an experienced intellectual property attorney. This is because they understand the delicate balance between disclosing enough to obtain meaningful coverage without getting so specific that it is possible for your competitors to easily design around what you have protected under the patent.
This is the art of writing a
specification that clearly and concisely describes the invention. It includes various sections including a summary of the invention, a background of the technical area and a summary of any drawings
that are included with the application. Then, a detailed description of the invention is added.
It is critical that the specification includes enough detail to describe all of the invention's parts. Special emphasis is given to any unique and innovative aspects of the invention. If the invention is an improvement on an existing product, then aspects of the existing product also may be described, but with just enough detail to give a general background. This part of the application should not overshadow the unique features of the innovation.
The new and unique aspects of the invention are described in exhaustive detail. However, the experienced intellectual property lawyer knows the value of not getting overly specific. For instance, suggesting that an invention must adhere to certain dimensions isn't wise because a competitor could simply copy the invention with different dimensions to avoid infringement. It is generally preferable to list a range of possible dimensions, any of which may be appropriate.
The other essential part of the patent application is the claims. These claims more specifically point out aspects of the invention that you would like to protect. Ideally, this will include the new, unique, non-obvious features of the invention that make it worthy of patent protection.
Each patent application that is
submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is reviewed by an Examiner. These Examiners are attorneys who, like intellectual property lawyers, have a specialized technical background. It is
this background that qualifies them to review highly scientific and detailed patent applications.
Examiners also sift through the records of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, looking for similar applications and patents. Essentially, they are trying to determine if the subject matter of the current patent application has already been disclosed in an earlier application. If they find an application or patent that has a highly similar disclosure, then the Examiner may argue that the current invention cannot be patented because it is not new and non-obvious.
Accordingly, it is one of the responsibilities of the intellectual property attorney to understand the "prior art" or earlier patents and applications that already exist. This makes it possible to draft a patent application that highlights how the new invention is novel and inventive over what has been disclosed before.
Clearly, there isn't much about
drafting patents that could truly be called basic. New inventors are certain to be wary of the task, especially since getting it wrong can be a costly error. Disclosing too much or being too specific
can give your competition a leg up that you don't want them to have.
That's why it is advisable to rely on the advice and guidance of a qualified intellectual property attorney. They have the experience that is required to write an accurate and complete patent application that captures the novel aspects of your invention. It is likely that your invention will receive broader and more meaningful protection when the patent is drafted by a seasoned professional.
Author: Jeff Williams
Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.
Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.
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