A patent abstract is a short summary of the invention or idea that is seeking a patent through the application process.

What Is a Patent Abstract?

Under the rules of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), any and all applications for non-provisional patents must be submitted with an abstract. This is a written part of a patent application that can be prepared by the inventors themselves, or they can hire writers to draft abstracts for them.

This summary should be concise and should describe the invention that is discussed in the application. The idea behind an abstract is to take a step back from the details of the invention and write about its essence. This allows the USPTO to be able to tell what the application is about right away.

Abstracts should be taken seriously even though they are a just a short summary. Because it is part of the official application, the abstract can be used by the Federal Courts to construe claims.

The outline for patent abstracts provided by the USPTO should be followed when preparing the document.

Basic Rules for a Patent Abstract

A patent abstract, also called an abstract of the disclosure, should follow these rules:

  • The abstract must be included in the application on its own sheet of paper proceeding the claim section and must be clearly labeled.
  • The abstract must consist of 150 words or less.
  • The abstract must clearly give the basic idea and nature of the invention disclosed in the technical part of the application.

As an applicant is preparing his documents to apply for a patent for his invention, he should reference the Manual of Patent Examination Procedure rules and specifications to be sure that he is handling everything properly.

Any abstracts that do not meet the proper requirements can be rejected by the office and sent back to the applicant for corrections. The application process for patents can be quite long even when everything is done correctly and runs smoothly, so getting all of the pieces right the first time is ideal.

Is an Abstract Necessary?

Abstracts are used first by the office when looking through patent applications and getting an idea for what's what. They are also helpful when others are searching the patent application database.

A good abstract can attract companies and individuals for potential patent licenses. Many times, the abstract is the only part of the application a person will read when searching through the database.

Anyone with a basic understanding of the patents field of work should be able to read its abstract. By reading the abstract, anyone should be able to learn what the invention is and what purpose it plays. From there, a reader will decide if he wants to read more in-depth into the application.

Think of a patent abstract like the front page of a magazine. Anyone looking at the cover of a magazine can quickly get a gist for what it's about and what purpose it serves.

Abstracts do not need to mention claims or their scope. This isn't the legal part of the application, so leave that topic out.

Why the Office Might Object to an Abstract

There are a handful of reasons why an abstract could be rejected by the USPTO. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • It was not put on a separate sheet of paper.
  • It was too short (fewer than 50 words) or went over the 150-word limit.
  • It didn't use the appropriate language.
  • It didn't describe the invention properly.

A patent abstract should not be longer than one paragraph. Sometimes this can be hard to accomplish. A second pair of eyes is always helpful, so consider asking a colleague to read over it if it's too long and suggest what can be taken out to reach the proper length.

Patent abstracts shouldn't use too much legal jargon. Leave the legal language for the claims section. Abstract language should be easy to understand and should get right to the point. Try not to lead into what the abstract is saying with phrases like, "This abstract of disclosure describes," or "This abstract concerns."

There is no need to discuss anything in the abstract other than the invention disclosed in the patent application. Don't take time to compare it to other inventions or comment on its marketability or need for patent protection. You should merely describe the invention while highlighting what makes it original and functional.

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