What are the parts of a patent application in the United States?

What are the parts of a patent application in the United States?

A patent application is not something that you would read for fun.  It is difficult for a person who has not been formally trained in the patent application process to decipher what a patent application means.  The words used in a patent application often have special meanings that normal people would not know about.  The structure of a patent application is very rigid and formal.  A patent application must have exact content formatted in a specific way.  If your patent application does not meet the exacting requirements of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, your patent will not be granted.

The essential parts of a patent application are (1) the specification, (3) the drawings, and (3) various forms that must be completed.

When you file a patent application various forms must be completed and filed with the patent application.  Some examples of the information that the forms require are:  proof that you have submitted the fees to file the patent application, information about the inventors of the invention, information about who has been assigned the patent, and an oath.  The oath states you actually invented the invention, that you have read the patent application, that the patent application is accurate, and that you will disclose to the patent office any and all information relevant to the patent. The oath must be signed by all the inventors that contributed to the invention and notarized.

Drawings of the invention are required when drawings are necessary to understand the invention.  Sometimes drawings of the invention are not practical and photographs can be submitted instead.  Flow charts can be submitted as drawings when the patent application is for an invention related to processes.  Each essential element of the invention must be noted in the drawings, but the drawings cannot contain words except for a few short catchwords that are indispensable for understanding the drawing.

The specification is also called the disclosure.  Much of the success of a patent application depends on the written description of the invention in the specification. The specification of the patent application is drafted to both satisfy the written requirements for patentability, as well as to define the scope of the claims.  It is important for inventors to work with their patent attorney to carefully draft the specification section of the patent application. Some of the sections that must be included in the specification are:

  • The Abstract – is a concise description of how the invention works, it must be less than 150 words.
  • Background of the invention – describes the current state of the art and how your invention is addressing those issues.  In this section you disclose what is known by other people and how your invention solves problems that exist today.
  • Brief summary of the invention – the brief summary is like the abstract but longer.  It can describe the problems solved by the invention and should describe the invention and how it actually works.
  • Brief description of the drawings – here you give a very short explanation of each drawing.
  • Detailed description of the invention – this is the core of the specification.   A detailed description is a narrative that explains the drawings.  The detailed description should describe both the inventor’s preferred way to practice the patent as well as other ways of practicing the invention.
  • Claims – this is the most essential portion of the specification.  A granted patent is only as powerful as the claims.  It is possible for a patent application to fully describe parts of the invention that could be granted patent protection, but if those parts of the invention are not claimed by the inventor than those parts of the invention will not be included in the granted patent.

A patent application is a complex document that requires significant effort to prepare.  If you are thinking about filing a patent application or have questions about the patent application process, it is prudent to consult with a patent attorney.