Drawings are an essential part of any patent application for a device or design that requires a visual representation of the functions and concepts involved. It is essential that all inventors provide the best patent drawings so that examiners quickly understand the invention presented in the application, thereby increasing the likelihood that a patent will issue.
Although drawings are not required to accompany a patent application submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the European Patent Office (EPO), or intellectual property regulators ( PI) in other jurisdictions, there are few situations in which it is feasible for a patentable creation to be adequately explained in writing only. For this reason, it is recommended to provide illustrations or drawings when filing an application.
Here, we’ll look at the fundamentals of patent illustration and the steps you need to take to produce appropriate drawings for your utility or design patent application. Of course, we will look at general examples of the use of patent drawings, and it is recommended that you seek expert advice for your own case.
What is a patent illustration?
Many items fall under the umbrella term of patent illustrations – not just drawings of the item to be patented. Flow charts, cross-sectional or cross-sectional views and diagrams should also be considered illustrations, as are “exploded” views depicting the relationship between (and assembly steps of) various parts of an invention with magnified detail.
Basically, just about any two-dimensional visual representation of an invention you hope to patent is probably an illustration. Photographs can sometimes be included in the “illustrations” category, but with several caveats.
Generally speaking, patent examiners do not want to see photographic representations of an invention or design unless it is impossible or impractical to present the invention in any other visual way. For example, if you need to display crystal structures, as may be the case with some pharmaceutical or life science patent applications, photographs are the only feasible way to illustrate these details.
Patent examiners frown on photographic representations of an invention or design, but welcome various illustrations such as flowcharts, cross-sectional or cross-sectional views, and diagrams.
Whenever photographs are essential to your patent application, most jurisdictions – including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in the case of applications submitted under the Patent Cooperation Treaty ( PCT) – prefer images to be black and white. Some agencies accept color photos, but with additional restrictions: the EPO will scan, print and distribute the images only black and white. The USPTO, on the other hand, requires candidates to submit a petition separate from the application explaining why the color is needed and will assume that the color used is an integral part of any issued patent, unless a disclaimer to the contrary is included. Finally, PCT applications totally prohibit color photographs.
What are the rules for patent drawings?
Many of the more detailed specifications in patent drawings relate to size and spatial orientation. Most patent and trademark offices around the world prefer the paper to be A4 (8 ¼ by 11 ¾ inches or 21 by 29.7 centimeters), although some will accept the US standard of 8 ½” by 11″ (21.6 by 27.9 centimeters). Margin requirements are equally specific, with the USPTO stipulating the following minimum margins for pages containing drawings or diagrams: the top and left sides must be at least 2.5 cm, while the right and bottom margins must be 1.5 cm and 1 cm respectively. Additionally, most patent offices prefer drawings to be in a vertical, vertical position rather than a horizontal, landscape-style orientation.
Like photographs, drawings should also avoid color and use black ink on unglazed white paper. If you can convincingly state that color is essential to your application, it may be allowed, but in most situations it is not worth the time and cost and may cause your filing date to be delayed.
As for what the drawings themselves contain, there are few restrictions. You must describe the invention or design from as many different perspective views as necessary to show all surfaces of the object proposed in the application. All figures representing each specific sectional view must be together and face the same direction. If you are using sectional drawings, use oblique hatching so that none of the separate representations obscure the main lines or reference signs throughout the illustration.
Drawings should also avoid color and use black ink on non-glossy white paper. Additionally, most patent offices prefer artwork to be in a vertical position rather than a horizontal, landscape-style orientation.
Since the drawings will be reproduced at approximately two-thirds of their original size during the review process, they should not be drawn in such a way that a small reduction would prevent details from being discernible. Also, numbers are the best choice for reference characters. If letters must be used, respect the alphabet corresponding to the region. Last but not least, you should try to avoid words in drawings, but if necessary, use the language of the competent jurisdiction. In the European Union, it would be English, French or German; in the United States, English.
How can you make your patent drawings more effective?
Compliance with the rules described above, adapted to the patent office(s) concerned, is crucial for the success of your patent application. Patent offices are extremely busy and often late and as such may take the opportunity to reject a patent application on the basis of even minor non-compliance. It is also essential to carry out a prior art search before filing in order to be able to best demonstrate the novelty of your invention.
Beyond meeting the requirements of the patent office you are filing with, the main goal is to compose your designs with clarity. While the language used in your abstract, description and invention or design claims is vitally important, ultimately it is the details of the drawings that will have the greatest impact and convey the most value. information. For patent applications, a picture really is worth a thousand words.