What Is Patent Drawing Software?

Patent drawing software is a type of computer program that allows the user to easily create diagrams, flowcharts, engineering schematics, and computer-aided drafts. Inventors can then use these to illustrate their patent applications for presentation to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Also, the software can help to create 3D renderings and virtual prototypes to capture the attention of potential partner companies and licensees.

To adequately illustrate the scope of the invention, patent drawing software shows aspects such:

  • The particular components of the invention and how they fit together
  • The internal workings of the invention
  • Numbered figures that describe each piece of the invention

In most cases, patent attorneys suggest several drawings to accompany the patent idea. These drawings provide a better idea of the finished product. They also act as a fail-safe in case something is left out in the description of the invention. However, not all patent drawing software is user-friendly for novices. In some cases, the help of a third party is a solid choice. For provisional patents, drawings are seldom analyzed, but in standard, non-provisional patent filings, at least one drawing is a requirement.

For non-provisional patent filings, detail is essential. The more technical and realistic the drawings are, the easier it is to understand the invention. This makes it more likely that the patent will be granted. Drawings are also cost-effective, because they generally cost 10 to 100 times less than building an actual prototype.

Why Is Patent Drawing Software Important?

A drawing goes a long way toward effectively illustrating your invention. It helps patent officers and other interested parties understand the inner workings of your idea by providing a visual aid in addition to the written submission. It's also an effective way to secure exclusive rights to the product, and it provides something tangible for intellectual property protection.

Reasons to Consider Not Using Patent Drawing Software

Patent drawing software isn't for everyone, especially for inventors that don't have the knowledge to use computer drafting programs. However, if you have the ability to file the patent on your own, you can most likely make the drawings without software. You typically have three options:

  • Black and white drawings
  • Color drawings
  • Photographs

In most instances, black and white drawings are the way to go. Use a pen and a ruler to make the drawings, but use India ink and attempt your drawings in pencil before making your final draft. Tracing photographs on paper is usually the easiest way to get a detailed drawing. Freehand artwork can lead to mistakes and many drafts. Color drawings are seldom used. They require a fee, a statement about why color drawings are needed, and a petition to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Photographs are the least-used medium for patent applications. They are only accepted when a drawing isn't adequate to demonstrate the product. This situation usually only applies to biological patents such as plants, animals, or cell cultures.

Another reason to skip using patent drawing software is that you may need the assistance of a draftsman or patent illustrator. This is a costly venture, as most charge from $75 to $150 per page. This, in addition to the other costs of a patent, taps into the capital you need to get your product off the ground. If you decide to try your hand at patent drawing software, remember that most programs are expensive to buy, and they usually require other aids such as a scanner or a digital camera.

If you're uneasy about making your own patent drawing, the USPTO website is a valuable resource. Here you can see example drawings that range from amateur to professional. Many hand drawings are done by the inventors themselves. This should reassure you that the invention is more important than the quality of the drawing.

You should also remember that patent drawings must meet the requirements of the country where the patent is filed. In the U.S., this includes:

  • Page size A4 or letter
  • Black and white drawings
  • Different types of lines
  • Shading to show texture and different materials

Reasons to Consider Using Patent Drawing Software

If you aren't gifted in drawing or photography but have some knowledge of computers, patent drawing software may yield better results. These programs allow you to fix mistakes with ease, and they provide adequate drawings of your product in a short time. Once you've completed your drawing, the software also enables you to change views and perspectives to further illustrate your invention.

Whether you're drawing from scratch or from a scanned image, patent drawing software saves time. There are also products such as Google Sketchup and Draftsight which are free to use and provide decent 2D and 3D pictures. However, these free programs have limitations, and many people choose to pay for more comprehensive, robust patent drawing software.

What Drawings Do You Need for a Patent Application?

The drawings for a patent application follow strict guidelines, so make sure to follow these rules:

  • Use black ink on white paper if drawing by hand
  • The paper must be 8.5 by 11 inches
  • Each page must have margins of 2.5 centimeters on the top and left-hand side, 1.5 centimeters on the right-hand side, and 1 centimeter on the bottom
  • Drawings are preferred in vertical format
  • Use numbers instead of letters or Roman numerals to illustrate parts when possible
  • Draw to scale

Views are also important to illustrate your product, so you should include these:

  • Six standard views including front, back, left, right, top, and bottom. These may include views that a consumer may never see.
  • Perspective views from various angles to show three-dimensional depth. This isn't required, but is highly recommended by the USPTO. If surfaces are easily recognized and described in the perspective view, they aren't required in other views.
  • Sectional views of each part. This shows the different elements of how the invention works. Any structure that's not part of how the device works is neither required nor permitted.
  • Exploded views. These are used to show parts of the design that can be separated during normal use. These drawings need a bracket to connect or enclose the parts. If used, an exploded view is additional to other views.
  • Shading to show depth and provide a noticeable difference between open and solid surfaces. This shows the contours of your design. Shading should always be applied so that it appears that light is coming from the upper-left of the drawing. The two types of shading are as follows:
    • Linear shading. This uses continuous or parallel lines. Linear shading is used for shiny or transparent surfaces such as metal or glass.
    • Stippling. This uses dots to show rough textures such as foam, concrete, or coarse fabric. In addition, it shows contours.
  • Duplicate views. If two sides of the patent drawing are identical, only one is necessary. However, this must be stated in the included notes.
  • Plain and unornamented views. A view that's plain, such as the bottom of a speaker, can be omitted from the patent application. If so, this should be noted.
  • Flat object views. A flat or embossed object only needs front and back views along with a description that notes such a fact.

You may also have to use arrows to show mechanical features of the invention. These can be accompanied by a description of the movement.

Use of informal drawings like rough sketches is acceptable with your patent application. However, the application won't get consideration until formal drawings are submitted. To avoid application delays, make sure to submit formal drawings with your application. The only reason to use informal drawings is when you want to get an early filing date, but have yet to make formal drawings.

Common Mistakes Involving Patent Drawing Software

One of the biggest obstacles to submitting a successful patent that generates revenue is the lack of funding. Patent drawing software isn't cheap, and even if inventors outsource the illustrations, they often fail to budget the cost.

Another pitfall is that software patent drawings must conform to the rules laid out by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. When they don't, the patent may be rejected.

An additional expense involving illustrations, which is often overlooked, are sell sheets. These outline the details of your invention to buyers, wholesalers, and consumers. They can use the same illustrations that patent applications use, but they require more business-oriented descriptions. Finally, they must be printed and distributed.

If you need help with patent drawing software, 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.