If you wonder how to read a patent, you must first understand its parts. Also, understanding what part to read first will help you layer your review so that you do not get overwhelmed. Unless you are a patent analyzer, you will want to know the tricks to reading the most important part of a patent.

Important Patent Parts

Reading patents can be frustrating if you do not understand their organization or where to find the essential parts before setting out to read the entire patent. Patents have three major components:

  1. Abstract
  2. Claims
  3. Specification

The claim explains what the inventor created and owns. The specification is the instruction that shows a person skilled in the trade how to use the invention. The inventor gets exclusive rights to the invention by disclosing how they created it. Every patent specifications include the following critical data:

  • Background of the Invention
  • Summary of the Invention
  • List of Figures

The Background of the Invention should provide context to what inspired the invention. This include includes the state of the industry relative to the invention, a description of the invention, and what problem it solves. The Summary of the Invention overviews the invention. It should conceptually explain the design to help you navigate through the detailed descriptions. Lastly, the list of figures helps the inventor illustrate the invention. If done well, you will find it informative and useful.

Reading the Patent

The first thing you should read in a patent is the title and the abstract. The title cannot exceed 500 characters. It should describe the invention. The abstract should be 50 to 150 words in length and should allow you to understand the problem, the overall solution, and the invention's functionality.

The next part you should read is the description. The Background of the Invention and the Summary of the Invention is part of the invention. However, inventors are now leaning toward broad language to extend their patent's reach.

After you read the description in its entirety, review the List of Figures. The visual can help you put what you've read in context and will help you understand the claims. Next, read Claim 1. Here are a few things to note:

  • The claims are protected and describe the inventor's creation.
  • Patent lawsuits are claim infringements.
  • A claim is one sentence that starts with a capital letter and ends with a period.
  • Usually, the higher the claim is, the more critical it is as inventors typically put the essential claim or claims on the top of the section.
  • Claims are either dependent or independent. Usually, if a claim references another claim, then it is dependent, and if it does not reference another claim, then it's independent.

After you read the claim, browse through other sections to enhance your understanding. You can look at things like who invented the patent, how long it took to get the patent, review prior art, and research terms you do not understand the claims.

How to Read a Patent Quickly

Evaluating a patent can take days. If you need to understand what a patent covers in a few minutes, follow the following suggestions:

  • Skip the title since it can be vague. Also some titles, like "Wireless Camera," might only apply to specific features and not the entire camera or it may point to an improvement on a prior invention.
  • Skip the drawings. While you may come across an incredible illustration that helps you understand the patent, it is usually not the case. Most drawings are hard to read and therefore will not help you quickly unearth the patent's core functionality.
  • Skip the abstract and the specification. The abstract is usually purposely vague and hard to read, and the specifications talk about the background and the art — neither helps you understand what the patent covers.
  • Read the independent claims. The claims are the only section in a patent that is legally enforceable.

As an entrepreneur, you do not want to become a patent reader, skipping right down to the independent claims will allow you to get to the heart of any dispute in five minutes or less.

If you need help reviewing a patent, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.