Elements of a Patent

By Grygor Scott

A patent gives an inventor the legal right to prevent others from making, using or selling the inventor’s new device, process, design or substance. In effect, a patent is a short-term monopoly for an invention. Most patents expire in 20 years. A patent grant encompasses the elements of the inventor’s patent application. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reviews patent applications and issues a certificate for each approved patent. This certificate acknowledges that the federal government has granted the inventor a patent for the invention. Patents have several required elements.

A patent gives an inventor the legal right to prevent others from making, using or selling the inventor’s new device, process, design or substance. In effect, a patent is a short-term monopoly for an invention. Most patents expire in 20 years. A patent grant encompasses the elements of the inventor’s patent application. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reviews patent applications and issues a certificate for each approved patent. This certificate acknowledges that the federal government has granted the inventor a patent for the invention. Patents have several required elements.

Abstract

A patent’s abstract is a synopsis of the patented invention, process, substance or design. It provides a brief summary of the technical information disclosed in the patent. An abstract is usually only one paragraph in length.

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Specification

A patent’s specification provides details about the invention and demonstrates how it differs from earlier inventions. The specification includes a title, which indicates the invention’s general field. For example, a patent’s title could be “A Decorative Device for Storing Shoes.” A specification includes a summary that briefly outlines the invention’s scope or claims. The specification also has three major elements: background, description and claims.

Background

The background section provides a thorough overview of the invention’s prior art. A patent’s prior art consists of the existing technologies and information related to the patent’s invention. The background is important because it helps the inventor show how his invention is new and different from existing inventions.

Description

A patent’s description section provides a complete explanation of the invention’s components and how it works. In exchange for a patent, an inventor must publicly disclose all of the details of his invention. U.S. patent law requires that a patent’s description be detailed enough “so that any person of ordinary skill in the pertinent art, science, or area could make and use the invention without extensive experimentation.”

Claims

The claims section provides a narrow, precise statement of what the invention is. It is the most important element in a patent because it establishes the exact scope, or boundaries, of the patent’s invention. In patent infringement cases, courts use a patent’s claims to determine whether the defendant’s device, process, design or substance infringes on the plaintiff’s patented invention.

Drawings

In most cases, a patent includes drawings. They demonstrate how the invention works. Federal law requires a patent’s drawings to show “every feature of the invention as specified in the claims.”

Declaration

A patent includes an inventor’s declaration that he was the first to invent the device, process, substance or design. The inventor must also affirm that the patent discloses all of the information that is material to the invention’s patentability.

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What Are Patents?

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DIY: How to File for a Non-Provisional Patent

A patent protects your right to use and profit from an invention. Many individuals and businesses retain patent attorneys or patent agents to represent them in the application process, especially if the technology is complex or litigation is likely. Absent these complicating factors, it is possible to file a patent application on your own. In the United States, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) administers the examination and approval of patent applications. A non-provisional patent is valid for the full patent term – in most cases 20 years.

Examples of Patents

President George Washington signed the first American patent granted to Samuel Hopkins in 1790 for a product used to manufacture fertilizer. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office now recognizes more than six million patents. A legal patent protects the use of the invention by other Americans and residents of countries recognizing international patent laws.

How to Submit an Invention to the US Patent Office

If you have invented a new and useful machine, process or innovation, a utility patent with the US Patent Office will grant you the exclusive right to prevent others from making, using or selling the product you invented. The process of applying for a patent can be very complex. Consider consulting with a licensed attorney or online document provider to assist you in the process.The following steps should be done, and presented in a packet, in this order.

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