1. Patent Categories
2. Patent Sections

Patent sections can refer to either the category of patent or the different sections of the actual patent document. Patents are a key part of our innovative economy. They provide motivation for inventors to create something and protect those inventions from the ability to profit from them.

Patents are complicated legal documents. If you are responsible for making decisions about your company's intellectual property and legal strategies, understanding how to read and comprehend a patent is an invaluable skill. If you need to understand potential risks and legal issues, it's best to consult a patent attorney to help you analyze the circumstances in depth. However, having a simple understanding of how patents work will allow you to make decisions and communicate more easily with your patent team.

Patent Categories

All patents are categorized into three large areas: Chemical, Engineering, and Electronic and Electrical Engineering. Within each of these categories, patents are further categorized into Sections and Classes, which are associated with the patent's technical area.

There are 21 Sections that relate the subject area of the patent. Sections use alphabet letters as they cover the three aforementioned areas. A through M are Chemical patents, P through Q are Engineering patents, and S through X are Electronic and Electrical patents.

Each Section is further subdivided into numerous Classes. A Class contains the Section letter and two digits. As an example, chemical fertilizers are classified under C04.

Patent Sections

Contained within the actual patent document are four primary sections: front page(s), drawings, specification (including background section, list of drawings, and detailed description), and claims.

In greater detail, the key elements to a patent document are:

  • Front Page:
    • Title: The title is provided by the applicant, although sometimes the patent office will suggest modifications during examination.
    • Inventor: The inventor's name and any additional people who have contributed to the invention will be listed here, alongside their city and state of residence.
    • Assignee: In most cases, inventors assign their rights to an employer or other business entity. This information lists the assignee at the time of patent issuance, but the patent may have been transferred since it was first issued. Check the USPTO assignment database for the most up-to-date information available publicly.
    • Filed: This is the default effective filing date for all associated patent claims.
    • Priority Information: Sometimes an applicant will make a priority claim to at least one previous application, which is known as a “priority application.” The effective filing date is then considered to be the filing date of the earlier claim. However, some patent applications do not include sufficient information for processing, in which case the standard (later) filing date will be effective.
    • References Cited (Prior Art): As the patent owner, you'll want the patents that are most similar to your own to be listed here, so that you'll be able to legally distinguish patents should any doubts or issues arise.
    • Abstract: This is a brief (150 words or less) summary of your invention.
    • Representative Drawing: The patent examiner will pick one representative drawing of your creation, which will be included on the front page of the patent.
  • Drawings: Drawings are an important part of a patent, as they help the reader to visualize and understand the concept of the invention. Drawings must depict all elements claimed in the patent. Prior art may be included here to show the details of other inventions in order to distinguish them from the new invention.
  • Specification: This section is comprised of the written details of the invention. Any terminology should be well defined here, in the inventor's own terms, as any future issues will refer back to this section.
    • Background: This section describes the invention's context. It's often very brief, as content here may actually be considered “admitted prior art” by the patent examiner.
    • Detailed Description: This is the main technical section of the patent. Each reference number and figure must be named and mentioned here. Keep in mind that not only are you describing the ways in which your patent is new and original, but also preventing future parties from claiming a similar invention.
    • Claims: This is the most important section of the patent document. It describes the patent's rights and limitations. The drawings and detailed description must depict each claim element in order to prevent its future unauthorized use.

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