The drawings for a utility patent application are one of the most important parts of the patent application. The drawings are a quick, easy way to establish some understanding of what to expect if one were to spend time reading the utility patent or application. Patent rules also require the drawings show what is being claimed as the invention. Moreover, without the drawings, the text of the patent document cannot be placed into context, and its full meaning may be harder to understand. Hence, the importance of the drawings cannot be understated; they are crucial to understanding the utility patent.
Keep the End Goal in Mind when Preparing Drawings for a Utility Patent Application
To begin preparation of the drawings for a utility patent application, keep in mind the end goal of the patent document, which is to show or illustrate what is being claimed. See the Patent Rules section below. What is being claimed will relate to the point of novelty of the invention. To show the point of novelty, I suggest telling a story through the patent drawings about how to make and use the invention.
Point of Novelty
The point of novelty is the point at which your invention departs from existing technology. The point of novelty should show how functionally your invention operates differently or has an additional benefit compared to existing technology. How does your invention depart from existing technology in terms of how it is made and/or used? To capture the point of novelty through the drawings for a utility patent application may be hard to do, but it is part of the goal of the drawings.
Tell a Story
The drawings of the utility patent application should tell a story to show the point of novelty effectively. The story may be a sequence of events. For example, if the invention deals with how a mechanical clicker of a mechanical pencil operates to push a lead rod through the pencil, then the drawings might show two views—first a cross-sectional view of the mechanical clicker when the user depresses the clicker and a second view when the user does not depress the clicker. If the invention is a series of steps, the drawings might show the different steps pictorially or in a flow chart.
Rule 1.83 (37 C.F.R. 1.83) states, “The drawings in a nonprovisional application must (emphasis added) show every feature of the invention specified in the claims.” Since the drawings for a utility patent application must show what is being claimed, it is important to have what you are trying to claim as your invention in mind when preparing the drawings. Oftentimes, a good suggestion is to write at least one or two claims that will help you clarify what the invention is or make the invention more concrete in your mind.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) produces a Guide to Preparation of Patent Drawings. This is an extensive explanation of the formatting rules for preparing drawings for a utility patent application. For example, the Guide covers topics such as the requirements for line drawings, reference numbers, types of views, margins, text sizes, etc.
Hire a Patent Attorney, Patent Drafter, or Do It Yourself
Most likely, a patent attorney will not agree to do only part of the preparation of a patent application; the attorney will prepare the entire application including the drawings, the technical description, and the claims, or will not accept your case. The reason is that the drawings, the technical description, and the claims work together to explain how to make and use the invention and define it as a whole. Without controlling all aspects of the patent application, many good patent attorneys would not want to be associated with or deal with the issues that come up.
A patent drafter can be used. Here are a few: www.patentsink.com, www.globalpatentgraphics.com, and www.patentdrawings.com. However, in my experience, a patent drafter is good for following the rules listed in the Patent Guidance section but not for identifying the point of novelty and figuring out the views to tell the story of your point of novelty.
If you have views in mind that you want to show, they will be good for formatting those drawings because they are familiar with the USPTO’s Patent Guidance. Patent drafters can place the drawings in the right format. However, they generally do not help you identify the point of novelty or tell the story to illustrate that point of novelty.
You can do the entire project yourself, including using a computer drafting program to produce the drawings. If you don’t have enough money to do the drawings, you may not have any other option but to do the drawings yourself. This brings up another issue; do you have enough funds to see the patent process to completion?