The claims define what is protected under the patent. The text of the patent explains the meaning of the words in the claims. The drawings must show each and every aspect being claimed.
However, in order to understand the claims as quickly as possible, you should first skim the front page of the patent and the drawings to understand the context of the invention. Thereafter, you should start reading the detailed description. After all of that work, you can now read the claims and understand what they mean.
What are the different sections of a patent?
The different sections of the patent are:
- Brief summary;
- Description of the drawings;
- Detailed description; and
What does the front page of the patent tell you about the invention?
The front page of the patent tells you the title and explains the invention in the abstract. However, don’t rely too much on this information. Oftentimes, they don’t give you enough information to understand the focus of the claims of the patent. Rather, the title and the abstract give you the general overall context of the invention. Nothing more.
The front page will also have a drawing or figure. This drawing was selected by the patent examiner and it’s supposed to illustrate the focus of the claims of the patent. Look at that drawing.
In a patent, all features in the claims must be illustrated in the drawings. As such, when the examiner allowed the patent, the examiner selected one of the figures to be placed on the front page of the patent which illustrates the claimed invention. This drawing contains the feature of the invention that is the focus of the claims of the patent.
How to review the drawings?
The drawings illustrate each and every aspect of the invention recited in the claims. I would skim through the drawings to see if you could get a better sense of the invention. Most likely, you won’t be able to figure out what’s the focus of the claims from the drawings. The drawings typically disclose many different aspects of the invention, while the claims focus on one of those many different aspects. However, it will give you a general sense of the claimed invention.
How to review the background, brief summary, and description of the drawings?
You may want to skim through the background to determine what problem the invention is trying to overcome. However, in modern-day patent drafting techniques, it’s preferable to write the background section as briefly as possible. Any disparagement of the prior art could narrow the claims. As such, the background section is very short and not very useful.
The brief summary is oftentimes a regurgitation of the claims in order to meet the antecedent basis requirement. As such, the brief summary doesn’t typically provide any significant useful information in understanding the claims when you are just starting to read the patent.
The same is true with the description of the drawings. Oftentimes, the description of the drawings is written in a generic fashion.
These parts or sections may be useful. However, when you start reading the patent, there are other useful sections that provide detail about the focus of the claims.
How to review the detailed description?
The bulk of your attention should be spent on the detailed description. Start at the beginning of the detailed description. As you read through the detailed description, have the drawings right next to you. Refer to the drawings and locate the numbers associated with each of the parts called out in the detailed description. Write down the name of the component next to the number in the drawings. This will help you to keep track of all of the parts of the invention without getting lost in the details.
You will begin to see a common thread or organization of the patent. Thereafter, you can begin to skim the detailed description if it is very long and go to the parts of the patent which appeared to be the focus of the claims. If the detailed description isn’t that long, just read it in its entirety.
Sometimes, many patent attorneys will put boilerplate information at the beginning of the detailed description. You can skip over that. Start reading where the patent attorney had taken the time to explain the how-to of the invention.
It should take you about one to two hours to read through the patent while referring to the drawings.
How to review the claims of the patent?
The claims of the patent are the focal point. All your work so far is designed to help you understand the meaning of the claims. As stated above, the claims defined the scope of patent protection forwarded under the pattern. It helps you to understand how broad your patent really is.
If you are a competitor, it helps you to understand whether you are infringing or not and what you might be able to do to avoid infringement.
Within the claim set, you will notice that there are independent and dependent claims. Focus on the independent claims because the independent claims define the broadest scope of patent protection afforded under the patent.
Read my other articles on determining the scope of patent protection defined in the claims: