To get a patent, you must explain how to make and use your invention which is referred to as the enablement requirement. The purpose of the enablement requirement is to allow the public to understand how to copy your invention. After the period of patent protection, the amount of publicly available information increases. Otherwise, the government would have no incentive to give you a patent if you didn’t contribute anything to society.
How do you satisfy the enablement requirement?
You satisfy the enablement requirement by providing:
- a written description of how to make and use the invention, and
- drawings to show how the invention works.
How much do you have to explain to satisfy the enablement requirement?
You have to provide enough details so that one of ordinary skill in the art can make and use the invention. That’s not a very good tip but it is the correct legal answer. Generally, a good guide is to explain enough of the details of how to make and use the invention so that an 18 year older person can make and use the invention.
An 18-year-old person is the minimum age for a juror when you litigate your patent. They are the ones that will decide whether the defendant is or isn’t infringing your patent. If an 18 year older person can understand your invention based on your written description, one of ordinary skill in the art would most likely be able to understand it too.
Also, if you can’t explain the invention to an 18-year-old, you most likely don’t understand the invention enough to write the patent application.
How do you know whether you satisfied the enablement requirement?
You satisfied the enablement requirement when others can practice your invention without undue experimentation. Remember, the entire notion of the patent system is that the government is giving you a patent in exchange for you giving away your ingenuity. If others can’t implement your invention based on your documentation (i.e., patent application), then the government won’t give you a patent. If they have to do an unreasonable amount of experimentation because you didn’t give enough of the details, then the patent is invalid.