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 The Inventor's Mentor 

September 2012

Parts of a Patent Application

Patents are legal documents. Their format is specified in patent law 35 U.S.C 112 and 113 and must include the following:


I. Specification

A patent application must include “a written description of the invention and of the manner and process of making and using it, in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art…to make and use” it without undue experimentation, trials and errors. The specification must also describe one or several implementations which the inventor believes to be “the best mode… of carrying out his invention.” (35USC112). To facilitate the identification of relevant passages during the prosecution, each page of the specification should be numbered. Paragraphs should also be numbered as in [0001]. (37CFR1.52) and be 1 ½ or double spaced. The specification is divided into the following parts:      

a) Title. It should be concise and devoid of marketing lingo (e.g. “Super Duper Looper”). Avoid obvious terms such as “Improvement to” since all patents are improvements. Eliminate verbosity: instead of “Device for lifting…” use “Crane…” Simplify searches by others by using meaningful keywords.             

b) Background. This section begins by stating the field of the invention, describes the problem that the invention is intended to solve, and the state of the art regarding competing and current methods for solving the problem. Recent court cases have shown that any admission written in the “Background” regarding the invention or prior art can be turned against the inventor during patent prosecution or litigation. It is therefore best to keep the “Background” as terse as possible to provide potential opponents with as small a target as possible.                              

c) Summary of the invention. The summary should recite the claims in “English prose,” not in the legalese used in the claims. It provides a convenient way of summarizing the kernel of the invention and of ensuring that the description as written in the claims is also written in the specification.               

d) Brief Description of the Drawings. Since drawings are not allowed to have captions, this section provides a short description for each drawing.      

e) Detailed Description of the Invention. This section explains the invention in detail, referring to the components in the drawings by means of reference numerals. In contrast to the “Background” this section should be as detailed as possible and include as many variations as possible of the basic invention.                 

f) Abstract: a complete, concise and clear paragraph of 150 words or less. Often the abstract is an English language translation of the legalese in the first claim.

II. Drawings         

Patent drawings are required when they are necessary to understand the claimed invention. They must show all the elements of the claimed invention using reference numerals.  They follow conventions set out by the USPTO and ordinary engineering drawings or photographs are not adequate.

III. Claims

An invention must also include one or several claims that delimit exactly, in legal terms, the invention. The writing of claims is a highly specialized skill that critically determines how well the invention is protected. Each word in a claim can have far-reaching legal implications and is carefully chosen by the patent practitioner. Each claim must be written in a single sentence and must be free standing.

A claim can be independent, or dependent. An independent claim does not refer to any other claim. A dependent claim must refer back to a previously written dependent or independent claim.

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This newsletter should not be construed as being legal advice.         ©2012 by George Levy