Parts of a Patent
A patent can de divided into the following sections:
- Abstract. This is a one-paragraph description of the
invention thats being patented.
- Drawings. These are carefully labeled figures that are
used to illustrate important concepts of the invention and that
are described in the detailed description. It is important that
at least one diagram shows a block diagram of the invention if
the patent includes apparatus claims. For a physical device, a
diagram should show the physical parts and their relationships.
For software, the diagram should show the architecture of the
software. For a patent that includes method claims, at least one
diagram should have a flow chart that illustrates the method.
- Background of the invention. This section describes the
field of the invention, other inventions, or publications that
predate this invention (prior art), and other inventions
related to this invention. This section typically explains the
inventions usefulnesswhats so great about the invention
and why people will want it.
- Summary of the invention. This is typically one paragraph
to one page in length that describes the invention. Though this
section isn't legally required by law, its a part of almost
- Brief description of the drawings. For each drawing in
the patent, there should be one or two sentences to briefly describe
- Detailed description. This section explains the invention
as completely as possible, referencing the drawings. This section
describes what is called the embodiment of the invention
that differentiates it from existing inventions. The description
must explain the best way the inventor knows of implementing the
invention, and it must be detailed enough to allow one of
ordinary skill in the art to produce it. Remember that the
patent must be novel, nonobvious, and useful.
- Claims. This is the essence of the invention. Each claim
is a single sentence, though its usually a very long sentence
broken into multiple parts, that describes the invention in as
precise wording as possible.
There is often debate among patent attorneys, inventors, and patent
litigators about the definition of "one of ordinary skill in
the art." The Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) section
2141.03 defines one this way:
The person of ordinary skill in the art is a hypothetical person
who is presumed to have known the relevant art at the time of
the invention. Factors that may be considered in determining the
level of ordinary skill in the art may include:
(1) type of problems encountered in the art;
(2) prior art solutions to those problems;
(3) rapidity with which innovations are made;
(4) sophistication of the technology; and
(5) educational level of active workers in the field. In a given
case, every factor may not be present, and one or more factors
Note that the definition of one of ordinary skill in the art will
vary depending on many factors and cannot be defined generally,
but must be defined for each particular patent.
Claims are the most important part of any patent. Patents typically
contain anywhere from 5 to 30 claims. Each claim is a single sentence,
and each describes an important aspect of the invention. Whether
another product infringes on a patent ultimately comes down to these
One last piece of advice: never file a patent that you've written
yourself without having a qualified patent attorney or patent agent
review the claims. I've seen patents for ingenious devices that
were worthless because of one misplaced word in a patent claim.
Other patents had no value because the claims were so narrow that
no one infringed, or avoiding infringement required some insignificant
change to the invention.