Method to the madness: dissecting a U.S. patent by Adrienne B. Naumann


Method to the madness: dissecting a U.S. patent

Through the years many entrepreneurs and other business people have requested patent protection through my office. However, many of them have never actually seen a United States patent or patent application, much less understood the requirements of its parts. This article will review the application and why each section is important. Unless otherwise noted, the corresponding sections of the application and patent are identical.

The Background describes the invention’s industry and problems in this industry that the inventor intends to solve. It should also describe previous inventions and why they did not solve these problems. The Background concludes with a short discussion of why the pending invention of the application overcomes these problems. The Summary of the Invention describes the invention in an abbreviated matter without reference numerals or references to drawings or figures. It should also designate the goals of the invention and describe features that the applicant considers the most innovative components. The Abstract describes the innovative features of the invention in two to three sentences.

The “Brief Description of the Drawings” describes, in single sentences, illustrations of physical features of the invention and the view thereof as depicted in a corresponding drawing (i.e., Figure) appended to the application text. The Detailed Description, or perhaps Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments and Best Mode or similar titles, is the most comprehensive portion of the application or patent. For example, this section includes key mathematical formulas as well as reference numerals. The structures corresponding to reference numerals in the text are explained in detail and correspond to each appropriate drawing with an overall figure number(s) from the Brief Description of the Drawings.

The Claims comprise long sentences that designate the innovation of the invention. For example, if there are three innovative features, then the claims should address all of them (with exceptions). The shorter and more general the patent scrivener drafts these sentences, the broader the protection that your invention will receive. The term “Specification” designates the total of: title of invention; background summary; description of the drawings; detailed description; claims and abstract. Other information is included in the specification, depending upon the nature and funding of the invention.

An illustration from my own practice for an adjustable exercise device made of piping, connectors, basketball hoops and speed bags is helpful: U.S. Patent No. US 6,976,945 B1(Lim) at uspto.gov [hereinafter referred to as ‘Lim,’ the inventor]. This entire exercise device can be quickly disassembled and carried in a bag. The Background describes previous exercise devices and their drawbacks. It also explains why the Lim exercise device is a significant improvement over previous devices for convalescing individuals with muscle strengthening requirements. The Summary specifies the muscles that are strengthened by and most benefit from use of the new exercise device, as well as the goals of the device that improve it over prior devices.

The Summary also specifies what is designated as the ‘preferred embodiment.’ This embodiment is the prototype or variety of the invention that is most superior to prior existing devices. For Lim, the preferred model contains a central speed bag with rigid a disc and this speed bag are positioned between two additional speed bags. However, other embodiments are also described in the event that one was found to be patentable but not others.

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