What Are Patent Drawings?

Patent drawings are a set of illustrations showing the precisely detailed features of an invention submitted during the patent application process. The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) requires that every patent application is submitted with at least one patent drawing of the proposed invention when an illustration is necessary to fully understand the invention. Patient drawings have changed over the years, but the USPTO has strict drawing rules that inventors must follow. The official record includes patent illustrations that aprinted and published in a uniform style on flexible white paper.

Why Do You Need to Know About Patent Drawings?

For inventors, drafting a patent application requires describing the invention in as much detail as possible. Without specific descriptions, an inventor loses the chance to get a patent approved. Explicit and detailed characterization of the invention distinguishes it from others.

The primary patent law court in the United States is the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. It reviews patent drawings and determines which particular art skill is the most acknowledged. Drawings with more details have more success. They often cover what inventors forget to describe in the written disclosure. The best way to get an adequate detailed drawing is to hire a professional patent illustrator. Greatly detailed, professional drawings have an increased possibility of approval during the application process.

There may be an exception where a chemical compound or composition is presented, or if a method or process is declared. This is the only time patent drawings are not necessary. Since it is possible to visually portray almost any method or process, it is best practice for applicants to provide illustrations. Often, it is confusing about what is "required" by law, and what applicants should provide as part of a complete package. It is important to understand that patent drawings are the most significant and valuable part of a patent application.

At the beginning of the application process, it is not mandatory to provide a drawing that formally meets all the requirements in the patent laws. Many of the less technical conditions, like using the right size font to label aspects of the illustration and margin, are not required but are still appropriate at the time of filing. For the most successful result, it is always best to send formal, professional patent illustrations.

Even though it is technically possible to file a non-provisional patent application without drawings, it is inaccurate to do so. There is a warning released by the Patent Office to file drawings at the time of the application filing. This is the best practice because new information cannot be added or introduced after the initial filing, and it's difficult to know if what you have submitted is adequate.

USPTO Rules for Patent Drawings

  1. Patent drawings must contain formatting rules for the patent application. See the USPTO drawing guidelines for more details.
  2. Black ink on white paper is required.
  3. Color is rarely allowed, only when it is necessary to describe the invention. A separate petition must be submitted to the USPTO before color is allowed.
  4. Photographs are only allowed where they are the only practical method of displaying the invention. For example, inventions involving a scientific gel are not suitable for drawings, so photographs are more appropriate to physically demonstrate the invention.
  5. The paper must be white, matte (non-shiny), flexible, and strong. Writing is only allowed on one side of the paper.
  6. The paper size must be either 21cm by 29.7cm or 21.6cm by 27.9 cm (8-1/2 by 11 inches).
  7. Each page must have margins of specific lengths, 2.5 cm on the top, 2.5 cm on the left side, 1.5 cm on the right side, and 1.0 cm on the bottom.
  8. You must submit drawing(s) with as many views as necessary to properly show the invention. Exploded views and blown-up partial views of specific portions of the invention may be used. If you need to show different views of the invention, the drawings are grouped together and facing the same direction on the page.
  9. Drawings in upright form are preferred, as opposed to the horizontal landscape drawings.
  10. The drawing should be drawn on a scale that is not crowded when reproduced at 2/3 size. Indications like "full scale" or "1/2 scale" are not acceptable since they lose their meaning with reproduced in a different format.
  11. Shading is encouraged where it aids in understanding the invention.
  12. Numbers are preferable to letters as reference characters in a drawing. When using letters, the English alphabet is used.

How Do You Create Patent Drawings?

Patent drawings are prepared in two ways:
  • Using a professional draftsperson
  • Drawing it by yourself

Even though patent drawings are demanding, inventors can still do it themselves.

Reasons to Do Patent Drawings Yourself
  • You can save $75 - $150 per sheet of patent drawings, and most applications have two or more sheets of drawings. Pricing varies based  on the complexity of the drawings.
  • You can develop promotional brochures for potential manufacturers or customers.
  • You get the most accurate information about the invention because it is made by you.
  • Prevents possible problems explaining your invention and saves time on sending drawings for revisions.
  • The feeling of accomplishment after finishing the patent application from the beginning till the end by yourself.

What Are the Parts of Patent Drawings?

There are many methods for creating drawings on your own.

Black and white drawings
  • The traditional way of making patent drawings with pen and ruler
  • Using India ink is difficult because there is no margin for error
  • Requires knowledge of basic drawing techniques
  • Perspective is necessary to show all the features of the invention
Color drawings
  • Three sets of the color illustrations listed
  • Must demonstrate why color is necessary by completing a petition
  • Requires patent petition fee 1.17 h - $130.00
  • Statement about color drawings included in patent application
  • Rare to use black and white photos
  • Accepted when the invention is shown more clearly by photograph
  • Photographs or photomicrograph of electrophoresis gels, cell cultures, animals, plants, or crystalline structures
Computer drawing software
  • Modern computer-aided drawing (CAD) programs
  • Great for production and easy to use
  • Expensive equipment
  • Creates sharp 3-D drawings that help describe and break down the physical characteristics of an invention
  • Easier to correct mistakes and save several versions as you go
  • Optional equipment includes a scanner and digital camera
Creating a drawing from photos
  • Scanning a photograph and importing into a CAD program
  • Photograph the object and transfer the image directly to a computer through a cable
 Drawing from scratch
  • Using a CAD program to draw invention from scratch
  • Constructing a three-dimensional representation by using and modifying geometric building blocks
  • Models can be manipulated for different views and perspectives.

Tips for Submitting Your Own Patent Drawings

  1. If the invention allows, you may want to simply trace it onto a sheet of paper.
  2. Learn about drawing perspective views to give the examiner as full and detailed a description as possible.
  3. Because the final copy must be in ink, do a few drafts in pencil until you get the drawing to look the way you want.
  4. If you must use color, be sure to first submit a petition to the USPTO and get their approval.
  5. Assemble a separate list of invention components and reference numerals.

Reasons to Consider Using a Professional Patent Illustrator

  • Filing formal drawings at the time of patent filing is advised, and using a professional gives you improved quality of drawings to submit.
  • Completely covers the invention and all permutations at the time of application
  • Provides as many patent drawings as necessary, showing various aspects of the invention
  • Ensures that patent drawings are in a particular form and meet Patent Office rules
  • USPTOs draftspersons review all originally filed drawings before the patent examiner reviews the drawing for compliance with the regulations.
  • Changes in drawings must be approved by the examiner prior to any new material being added.
  • For an invention that deals with software, flowcharts and schematics are needed.
  • A patent illustrator works under a patent attorney or agent's guidance to give desired illustrations.
  • Corrective action to informal drawings is required with a short turnaround. Failure to take corrective action results in abandonment of the application.
  • USPTOs Drawing Review Branch issues a Notice of Draftspersons Patent Drawing Review with over fifty common mistakes made by professionals that lead to rejection of the drawings.
  • Engaging professional patent illustrators saves time and money.
  • Professional patent illustrations are comprehensive and relevant.
  • Professional formal drawings leave the best impression on the patent examiner.
  • Formal drawings completed by a competent patent illustrator demonstrate a level of seriousness about the invention.

Examples of Patent Illustrations

Medical Patent Illustrations

  • Detailed drawings using exploded views, perspective views from several directions, and action views
  • Action views show the apparatus in operation and illustrate its function.

Design Patent Illustrations

  • The design patent includes the ornamental or the aesthetic, nonfunctional external appearance of a product.
  • Shows the outside appearance of the product from six viewing angles

Utility Patent Illustrations

  • Utility patent drawings describe the utilitarian function or features of a new invention.
  • Drawings contain the structure or method that makes the device function or operate.
  • The background of the invention assists the inventor or attorney to describe the apparatus or process proposed, the mode of operation, and the particular features.

Computer Patent Illustrations

  • Appropriate for a computer invention or any kind of invention
  • A proper invention disclosure has seven steps to give a comprehensive description of the invention.
  • Displays what was wrong with the earlier art
  • Demonstrates how the new invention corrects the prior art's difficulty
  • Interprets the structural details of the invention with brief sketches indicating specific references to the important parts
  • Describes the mode of operation of the new invention
  • Outlines any more advantages or disadvantages of the invention
  • Classifies features such as structural elements, process steps, mode of operation or results believed to be new

Contact an Attorney

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