Filing a Patent Application

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An inventor applies for a patent by filing a patent application, a set of papers that describes an invention. To obtain the patent, a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) must be convinced that the invention claimed in the application satisfies the “novelty” and “nonobviousness” requirements of the patent laws.

Patents applications are written in a formal, stylized manner packed with legal and scientific terminology. The claims within the patent are written in an arcane style that is positively puzzling to the uninitiated. That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you or your attorney can master the language, your application can be properly prepared and can weather objections from the USPTO. The purpose of this section is to introduce you to the various elements of a patent application and discuss how a patent application is prepared and prosecuted. 

The key elements of a patent are: (1) data about the inventor, serial number, dates, and related information, (2) the specification, (3) the claims, (4) the abstract, and (5) the drawings. The drawings and the specification explain how to make and use the invention and the claims define the scope or boundaries of the patent. Specifications for patents issued since 1971 must include an abstract that summarizes the invention. All patent applications must include a drawing if the subject matter permits. However, some applications, such as for pure chemicals, don’t include a drawing unless a process can be diagrammed by a flowchart. We will discuss these elements and more in this section.