A Short Guide To Patent Claims

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Patent claims are the heart of any patent application. All the paraphernalia attached to the application- like drawings, specifications, and others- exist to support the revelation made by claims. Considering their centrality to obtaining a patent it is important to be versed in the intricacies of a patent claim. This article dwells on throwing light on what is a patent claim along with understanding its types and effective tips and ways to draft it. 

Table of Contents

What Is A Patent Claim? 

A patent claim defines the subject matter that the inventor seeks protection for. Under 35 USC 112 of the United States Patent Office (USPTO), every applicant is required to identify and emphasize the claim their invention is making. In simple words, it articulates the scope of protection that will be guaranteed to an invention. They are expressed in legal terminology and a specific format mandated by the patent office.  

Types of Patent Claims 

There are two parts to patent application claims– Independent Claims and Dependent Claims. 

As the name suggests, independent claims stand on their own without referencing any other claim. The first claim of the patent application is usually an independent claim and is broader in scope than subsequent dependent claims. An independent claim can be made for something, a way of making something, or a manner of using something.  

Dependent claims have a narrower scope as they refer to an earlier independent claim. They are required because they are helpful in increasing the protection sought for the invention. Non-essential characteristics or optional features are included independent claims. The Patent claims example will help you understand the distinction better.

Patent Claim Format 

There are three parts to a claim: 

  1. Preamble: The preamble is the first part of any patent claim. It identifies the category of the invention and provides a context for the invention. in general, the preamble must not attempt to define any functional feature of the invention to avoid limiting its scope.  
  2. Transitional Phase: The language used in a transitional phase defines if the claim is “open”, “closed” or “partially open”. Words like “consisting of” are considered limiting while phrases such as “including” or “comprising of” indicate an open claim.  
  3. Body: The body of the claim is where all the limitations defining the invention are elaborated. It is also a document that elucidates the relationship between the different elements of the invention. The precise contents of the claim are mentioned here in a clear format.  

All claims follow a set pattern and format. The preamble is separated from the transitional term by a comma and the transitional term is separated from the body by a colon. The various elements of the invention specified in the claim are in separate paragraphs, distinguished from the other paragraphs by a semi-colon. 

Things to Keep In Mind When Drafting A Claim  

There are a few strategies that you can keep in mind when drafting the claims section of your application. These are coherent with the guidelines issued on the USPTO website: 

  • Drafting your specifications prior to the claims so that the terms used therein can be included in the claims. This is important since the claim terms must find support in the specification. 
  • Be absolutely clear about the legal protection you intend for your invention. this will help you prepare the claim precisely.   
  • Conduct a prior-art search to familiarize yourself with the claims in issued patents. 
  • Distinctly point out the subject matter of the claim in your application. 
  • Guarantee that the dependent claims are further limiting the claim to which they refer.  
  • Review some examples of patent claims to understand them better. 
  • Claims must not cover multiple statutory classes of invention. The examiner is likely to restrict such a claim thus causing a delay in the patent grant. 
  • Stick to using the established standard transitional phrases to avoid confusion.  
  • Be consistent with the terms used throughout all sections of the claim. 
  • Refrain from using language that may not clearly limit a claim.  
  • Always use generic terms when drafting claims rather than trademarks or trade names. 
  • Focus entirely on the inventive concept so that the scope of the claim is neither too broad nor too limited. Too general and it may not qualify for a patent, and if it is too specific then it may not be valuable to your business. 
  • Proofread the document before submission to remove any unnecessary or redundant claim elements.  

Importance of Patent Claims 

The scope of protection granted to an invention is based on the claims mentioned in the application. This makes patent claims supremely important as they will decide what constitutes infringement. In this sense, they help protect your invention from being used by a third party without your permission. In the event of any patent litigation, it is the claims section that is thoroughly scrutinized to come to a decision during infringement cases. Thus, claims are of paramount importance in defining the inventor’s right to exclusivity.  

Conclusion

An understanding of what is a patent claim equips the inventor with a knowledge of its contribution as a foundation of the patent application. Given its centrality to the application, it is crucial that claims be drafted meticulously without any room for errors. Any mistakes in filing claims can not only risk your chances of getting a patent but also leave it susceptible to infringement even if the patent is granted. Always trust the services of a reputed firm with expertise in the area of patent filing to manage this vital task. 

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