Provisional Patent Drawings: Everything You Need to Know
Provisional patent drawings are illustrations of your invention which help describe how the invention is put together and how it works.9 min read
Provisional patent drawings are illustrations of your invention which help describe how the invention is put together and how it works. These drawings are submitted as a part of your application to ensure the invention is clearly detailed to provide future patent protection.
Patent Drawings and Invention Illustrations
Patent drawings are a requirement for patent applications but aren't the only visual representations of your invention for which you should be mindful. For a patent application, at least one drawing is required. Patent drawings are important for helping illustrate and explain how the invention works. However, when it comes to selling the invention, other illustrations are more important to show how the invention can be used to add value to someone's work or play and thus must be purchased.
Patent drawings must show each feature described in the application. They typically contain exploded views with reference numerals to show how all the pieces fit together and refer the viewer to the description section of the patent application for a detailed explanation of the various parts. This exploded view also makes it easier for the patent attorney to explain, in detail, each step followed in making the invention.
To ease understanding by people performing patent searches, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has strict guidelines on several aspects of the drawings submitted with non-provisional patent applications including:
- Paper size
- Paper Type
- Font Size
- Print Margins
The main reason the USPTO has such specific rules for patent drawings is related to how patents are issued. When a patent is issued, the drawings included in the patent application are published for public view. Having these uniform rules in place makes printing and publishing much easier. The other reason for these rules is that it allows people to use the patent description to more easily understand the drawings.
One of the benefits of patent drawings is that you can expand views of specific parts of your invention, showing how they connect to other parts and why they are so important to your overall product. Providing detailed views of the different parts of your invention will allow you to describe step by step how to create your invention, which is both a requirement for obtaining your patent and can help you attract licensees.
When applying for a patent, your goal should be to make the scope of your application as broad as possible. With a broad application, you will have fuller intellectual property rights, meaning it will be much easier for you to prevent others from using your invention without authorization. Investing in high-quality, professional drawings for your application will help you to broaden its scope and strengthen your patent protections.
Before including patent drawings, however, you should remember your drawings must show every described detail of your invention. If you include a drawing of a feature that is not referenced in your claims, your patent application will likely be rejected. If filing a non-provisional patent application, you should also remember that your drawings must adhere to strict guidelines.
While potential licensees and manufacturers are interested in how the inventions work and are assembled, you must first draw their attention to your product. That is where standard patent drawings take a back seat to flashier, advertisement-based illustrations like 3-D renderings and virtual prototypes which make your invention real.
Compared to the total cost of the patent application process, drawings are relatively inexpensive and go a long way toward ensuring a broad scope of protection for your invention. So the submission of several professional, detailed, quality drawings are a smart investment.
Truth About Provisional Patent Applications
A poorly completed provisional patent application will, at best, provide you with no benefit. At the worst, it can be used as evidence that as of the date of filing the provisional patent application, there really was no invention or that the invention was only an idea and therefore not eligible for protection.
Because of the potential catastrophic result, the inventor must have a good understanding of the provisional patent application process and requirement so as to not become a victim of those who either lack the knowledge to competently prepare the PPA or who willfully set out to scam the unsuspecting inventor. There are many lurking on the internet pushing provisional patent services on the cheap who may end up costing you much more in the long run. Inventors need the help of competent and ethical patent professionals who should be either a patent lawyer or patent agent.
Drawings in a Provisional Patent Application
Due to the provisional patent application being a shorter, simpler form than a full patent application, some believe that the requirements also differ and that drawings are unnecessary. This is a common assertion with non-attorney patent applications services.
While it is true that provisional patent applications are not as formal as the full patent applications, this is a matter of form versus function. The function of a provisional patent application is to obtain protection for your invention. This requires a complete disclosure of what the invention is and how it works and drawings are essential to understanding that. The drawing gives illustration to the sometimes complex and dense written explanation of the invention. The only exception to this rule would be chemical compounds which rely on the way they were formed rather than the way they look.
Description of a Provisional Patent Application
Correctly completing a provisional patent application is difficult and advice on how to do this from lay persons is normally bad because of lack of knowledge regarding laws surrounding patents.
A defective provisional patent application, especially in the disclosure of the invention is useless and may also have ruined the possibility of any future right to protect the invention. Unfortunately, you may not know the PPA is defective until you are working with the patent examiner during the full patent application process.
Don't Fear Provisional Patent Applications
Since United States patent law switched from a first-to-invent model of patent protection to a first-to-file model, the provisional patent application has gained importance and should be utilized to provide protection for inventions as early as possible. The PPA is appropriate either for a simple invention crafted in the workshop in your back yard or for a Fortune 500 company that has developed a sophisticated software application. Also, use of the PPA is appropriate as soon as an invention has progressed to a stage where it is no longer an idea but a concrete thing, although the invention may not be completely finished.
Retaining the professional assistance of a patent attorney is the best route if you can afford it. But if all your resources need to be spent on completing your invention, low cost alternatives are available.
How Patent Applications can be Improved
Patent applications are greatly improved by the inclusion of multiple quality drawings to illustrate the invention and assist the reviewer in comprehending how the invention works. Beyond requiring at least one drawing, it is advised that several drawings representing different layers of the invention be made to allow the reviewer to reference the drawings while reading the description, thus strengthening the scope and enforceability of the patent protection.
These various layers of illustrations should include multiple perspectives from which a person may view the object (right, left, top and bottom) and exploded views to more easily see the smallest components which may be hidden in the whole. Important single components of the invention may also have its own drawings.
Many patent applications could benefit from more drawings. Inventors should ask themselves, “What is the number of drawings required to adequately illustrate the invention?”
Professional patent drawings can be obtained for as little as $100 per page. At this price, it is very affordable to include many drawings with your patent application compared to the costs of attorneys, patent searches and other expenditures in the application process.
Although there is no requirement to hire a professional illustrator experienced in patent drawings, there are many strict rules which seem asinine to the lay person. However, failing to follow the rules and guidelines set by the USPTO may result in denial of your application. For these reasons, a whole industry has arisen around patent illustrations. Unless your invention is for a software development which can only be illustrated by flowcharts, your patent attorney will not be providing drawings.
It is technically not required to provide drawings at the time of initial application. However, it is foolish to wait to submit drawings. Further drawings submitted at the application stage do not need to conform to all formalities set forth for patent drawings but will need to be in the right font within the correct margins.
Drawings may be submitted after the initial application but new matters cannot be added to the application. Since early filing and restrictions on change are so important in patent applications, drawings illustrating all different aspects or potential final forms of the invention should be made and submitted to get the most protection for your invention.
The main reason to include several drawings with your application is it helps you obtain your filing date. The USPTO operates on a first come, first serve basis meaning that the first person to file a patent application is usually the person who is granted patent rights.
To obtain your filing date, however, your patent application should fully describe your invention, with possible variations on your invention. Including high-quality patent drawings can help you to fulfill this requirement, making it more likely that your provisional patent will be approved and you will be granted the all-important filing date.
Patent drawings submitted with applications are heavily relied on by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit when weighing issues of patent protection.
Advantages of Doing Patent Drawings Yourself
There are two options for creating patent drawings:
- Prepare your own drawings
- Hire a professional illustrator
While it is advisable to seek professional drafting, if you are confident enough to complete the patent application on your own, you may be able to prepare your drawings as well. Depending on the type of invention, tracing the item may be an option.
Using a Professional Draftsperson
Most inventors are technical in nature and preparing illustrations of their invention may be out of the question. In that case, there are many professional artists, illustrators and draftspersons who will prepare your drawing for you.
The costs for their services typically range from $75 to $125 per page. The best applications contain many drawings and different views of an invention, thus the costs for providing the illustrations can increase easily. However, given the value of their services coupled with the inability of some inventors to draw themselves, it is well worth the cost.
Black and White Drawings
Traditional patent drawings consist of ink on paper made by a ruler and a pen in black and white India ink, which can be difficult and leaves a small margin of error. However, this traditional method uses inexpensive basic tools.
When necessary to adequately represent your invention, you may submit color drawings and photographs. However, in so doing, three sets will need to be submitted along with an explanation as to why color is necessary over black and white.
Computer Drawing Software
Computer aided drawing (CAD) may be a good choice for those inventors who may lack sufficient funds to hire an illustrator and are unable to draw themselves. Accurate drawings are possible for the most unartistic and mistakes are easily corrected. However, CAD equipment and software is expensive, costing up to several hundreds of dollars. For an inventor needing many drawings or having multiple inventions, the one-time investment may be worth it compared to paying a professional for each drawing. Though not required, a digital camera and scanner makes the CAD system that much better.
Creating a drawing from photos.
Digital cameras and scanners allow you to import images into the CAD program on your computer which can then be easily traced.
Drawing from scratch.
The CAD system also allows you to sketch your invention starting with a blank screen. With the technological assistance available in CAD, such as geometric shapes, drawing is easier and can be easily made into 3D images that can be rotated for a variety of views.
Provisional Patent Application Procedures
There are three steps to properly prepare a provisional patent application:
- Search for similar inventions to yours. Before taking the time and expending the funds necessary to apply for a patent, you'll want to make sure your invention is actually new. Patent examiners always search “prior art” which are previously submitted patent applications to make sure that this newest application is not for an old invention. Most of your searching can be done on the internet. You can also hire a professional to search the USPTO files and technical journals.
- Describe your invention. You should be able to adequately explain what the invention does, how it does it, and how to make it. While it may run counter to common sense to have to explain an invention well enough for it to be reproduced in order to protect someone from reproducing, this is important so that a person infringing on your patent protection cannot claim some difference not set in your description. While not required, drawings can be beneficial to your overall description if they are easily understood and fit in a standard file folder. Your drawings can be color, black and white, hand sketched or computer generated. In describing your invention you should include its name, the inventor's name, the uses of the invention, how the parts all fit together, how the invention works, an identification of illustrations provided, and alternate uses for the invention.
- Complete and file your patent application with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. This can be done by mail or online and should include information about the applicant, information about the invention and a description of attachments. The filing fees should be submitted with the application ($65 for micro-entities; $130 for small entities).
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