Sunday, August 14, 2011

3 Bizarre Things About Patent Applications

Sometimes a business owner, eager to see the company’s first patent application, opens the draft -- and barfs. Never have they paid for such gobblygook.

Many things about patents might strike the entrepreneur as odd. This article is too short to go into all of the reasons for this situation. But, let’s start with why patent drawings tend to look cartoonish. First, patents rarely require detailed engineering drawings. Instead, patent attorneys try to graphically break down the ideas to help others understand the inventions. Many drafters also drop unnecessary detail that might obscure the inventions. Additionally, the Patent Office imposes their traditional and odd stylistic requirements. WYSIWYG!

Secondly, the writing style in many applications strikes many as stilted and mealy-mouthed. In the written description, the drafter tries to balance two contradictory requirements: being specific and avoiding specificity. Ironically, depending on the words chosen, specificity can limit an application’s scope. But, being vague can invalidate an application for failure to adequately describe the invention. Patent attorneys therefore spend their days agonizing over what to put in, what to leave out, and how to phrase what’s left.

For being bizarre, though, patent claims take the cake. For starters, a would-be-infringer will almost certainly use every word of the claims against the patent owner. Thus, many drafters place a premium on brevity. On the other hand, the claims must describe the invention well enough to alert would-be-infringers of the scope of the claims. That requirement necessitates words and, often, many of them.

Additionally, patent attorneys also try to comply with over 200 years of case law that seems openly hostile to drafters. Perhaps that is why the Supreme Court once said, patent applications are “the most difficult legal instruments to draw.”

We at the Villhard Patent Group caution entrepreneurs that patent applications hold many traps for the unwary. We would be happy to discuss how to protect your ideas. For more information about us visit or call (512) 897-0399.

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