What does a patent look like? A patent is a legal title that grants an inventor the right of excluding others from selling, using, or making/reproducing a certain invention. In the U.S., the duration of a patent is 20 years from its filing date. Patents are granted for new inventions, machines, processes or composition of matter, or new improvements thereof. In this instance, “composition of matter” refers to chemical compounds, including new compounds and mixtures of ingredients.

Patentable Inventions

To determine if an invention is patentable, it must be relatively new as defined by patent law. Inventions that have been on sale, used by the public, or described in printed publications for over a year cannot be patented. Inventors can submit a patent application for the same invention in multiple countries.

Patenting organizations that publish patent applications include the WO, WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), and the EP (European Patent Office). Such published applications provide detailed information on inventions before they appear in U.S. patents.

Propagation of New Technologies

The patenting system was designed to propagate new technologies by publishing lists of new inventions and their full details. As such, patent documents are important sources of information for researchers.

For an invention to be patentable, it must possess these basic criteria:

  • It must be useful.
  • It must be novel.
  • It must be non-obvious.

Filing a Patent Application

For an invention to be protected, it must be filed either with the patent authority in that country or with one that the country acknowledges. For instance, filing a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office offers no protection for the invention in Asian or European countries.

Drafting Patent Applications

Patents are legal documents that describe an invention and the idea behind the invention. Drafting a patent application requires the services of an experienced patent attorney; otherwise, you get a legal document that is imprecise or vague and therefore difficult to enforce.

Format of Patent Applications

All patent applications and patents are generally in this format:


This contains a summary of the invention. The information to be written here should help other persons quickly understand the nature of the invention. It is important to note that this section should contain a much broader description of the invention that the claims section. The claims section is what defines the actual limits of the patent's coverage.


This describes the problem as well as any solutions currently in use. Do not describe your solution or invention idea at this point since it may be considered as prior art.

Summary of the Invention

Provide a summary of your novel idea or invention and how it solves the problem stated in the last section.


Include all diagrams and drawings that illustrate the invention. A qualified patent attorney can assist in the drafting of professional patent drawings; however, hand-drawn diagrams are not unheard of in patent applications. The main point to note is that the diagram must explain the idea clearly.


Describe how the invention or idea can be implemented. For instance, if the idea is the use of electromagnetic in an automotive transmission, you should explain the steps required to construct such a transmission. The major objective of this section is to show the workability of the invention.


At this point, you assert the right to the specific idea or invention mentioned above. This section requires care since you must ensure that all the core ideas behind the invention are claimed else you may not get the level of protection you seek.

An experienced patent engineer and patent attorney can help you come up with a comprehensive set of claims for the patent. The claims section is very important since a law court will rule based on the information contained here (in the event of a patent infringement).

Identifying Patents

A patent's INID Codes can be found on all printed patents worldwide. It allows individuals to identify information elements in a patent. In most cases, an issued patent will be designated as “United States Plant Patent,” “United States Design Patent,” or just “United States Patent.”

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