Updated October 30, 2020:

Patent Description: What Is It?

A patent description is a part of how you patent an idea that explains the invention, design or plant you've developed and forms an essential part of your patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The patent description should include everything that makes your invention new. It must also include the information necessary for an average person to make your invention.

Together with the claims component, a patent description is known as the specification. A patent description includes the following sections:

  • Title: This label explains your invention or design in a straightforward way.
  • Cross-References: These explain connections between your patent application and others.
  • Background: The background section describes the field and provides context. It also includes the "description of prior art," or a discussion of related inventions that came before yours. For example, an electrical connector invention background should briefly explain its benefits and highlights. It should also reference specific patent numbers and titles for related inventions.
  • Summary: This section provides a complete view of the invention. It generally explains how the invention works and highlights its most important aspects.
  • Figure Descriptions: These are the captions for your illustrations.
  • Description of the Preferred Embodiment: This section explains the primary version of the invention in detail. It also references the figures as needed.

Advantages of a Patent Description

A patent description details the scope of your invention or design. It expands on the abstract and adds clarity to the patent claims. The description also allows you to define terms that are important to the overall patent application. Referring to the illustrations further clarifies the application.

Disadvantages of a Patent Description

A short or narrow description limits the patent's scope. This can result in a bad patent. For example, in GPNE Corp. v. Apple Inc., GPNE didn't define unclear terms in the description. Ultimately, the court decided the GPNE patent description was too narrow. That meant the court didn't uphold the company's claims or legally protect its patent.


There is no deadline for submitting a patent description. You must turn it in with the rest of your patent application materials. If you file a provisional patent application, you must complete and file the full patent application within one year.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Information Should I Include in a Patent Description?

Consider the following questions as you make your patent description:

  • What does the invention or design do?
  • How does the invention or design work?
  • What is the invention or design's intended use?
  • What is the invention or design's purpose?
  • What materials make up the invention or design?
  • Can I Use Another Patent Description to Write Mine?

Don't copy an existing patent description, because yours must be unique. You can look at patents that other inventors have filed, though. In fact, you should do a patent search and look at similar inventions before you file your application. This will help you find out how unique your invention is.

  • Can I Amend My Patent Description?

You can't add new information to your patent description. The description you submit must be as complete as possible. If your patent examiner requires changes, you can only amend existing aspects that could be gleaned from the illustrations and description.

  • Are All Patent Descriptions the Same?

The country where you file affects how the patent description looks. An Indian Patent Office application includes the same components as a USPTO application but in a different order. A Patent Cooperation Treaty requires extra details such as Best Mode for Carrying Out the Invention and Industrial Applicability forms.

A provisional application requires a written description. This is different from a patent description because the provisional version is shorter and less technical. It usually includes the title, the invention's purposes, the components, how it works, and its advantages. You must also list inventors and include drawings in a provisional patent application.

  • What Are the Other Parts of a Patent Application?
    • Abstract: This section offers a brief look at the invention or design. It's usually just a few sentences.
    • Claims: This section includes the scope of intellectual property. A utility patent can have several claims to add detail. Most applicants list them from most general to most specific. Claims are based on drafting, invention, field, and structure, and there are several subtypes.
    • Drawings: These illustrate your design or invention and highlight what's unique about it. Most applicants include several illustrations. You must refer to the drawings in the description.

You can create and file a patent description on your own. Many inventors choose to hire a patent attorney, though. Hiring a professional ensures your patent description will be as thorough and well-written as possible. A lawyer will also help with the patent search process, which identifies competing inventions and similar patents.

Steps to File a Patent Description

1. Create a Title

This should be short and to the point.

2. Describe the Technical Field

Make a broad statement about the field your invention falls into.

3. Describe the Background

List background information and context that's relevant to your invention.

4. Explain Problems You Encountered

List problems people have struggled with. Reference similar patents or other inventions that also touch on the topic.

5. Discuss How Your Invention Solves These Problems

Explain in a broad sense of how your invention addresses these issues.

6. List the Figures

Create a list of illustrations, along with a short caption.

7. Explain the Scope of Your Intellectual Property

Describe how each part works and how they interact. List the best materials and any alternatives.

8. Explain How to Use Your Invention

Include any warnings, and discuss how not to fail when using your invention. Mention an example of intended use.

9. Gather the Other Parts of Your Patent Application

To file a patent application, you'll need an abstract, the claims, and some illustrations. Gather these before submitting your materials.

If you need help creating a patent description, you can post your question or concern 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, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.