Patent applications are reviewed for “completeness” by the USPTO’s Office of Initial Patent Examination (OIPE). Let’s say you submit a patent application without drawings. After initial review at the PTO, the OIPE may determine that your patent application needs to feature drawings or else understanding the claimed invention is impossible. Such an application won’t receive a filing date because it’s deemed “incomplete.”
The OIPE will also deem it incomplete and withhold filing dates if the application mentions drawings but no drawings are submitted. Also, if the drawings don’t precisely correspond with their descriptions in the specifications, the OIPE will oppose the application and withhold filing dates. Either way, the OIPE will require the applicant to submit new drawings that meet all criteria before issuing a filing receipt.
The Growing Importance of Patent Drawings
Section 113 in title 35 of the United States Code clearly states that if a claimed invention can be better described via illustrations, the patent applicant must include drawings in his/her application.
In this current era of innovation, not many inventions can be clearly described by words alone. That’s why accurate drawings are considered to be necessary for almost all patent applications.
There are three types of patent drawings that applicants need to be aware of
Utility Patent Drawings
Utility patents cover these types of inventions –
- New uses of old inventions, for example, using World War II-era sonar technology to build a new swimming pool alarm system.
- Compositions (chemicals, recipes, drugs, biological materials, etc.)
- Methods or processes (software manufacturing methods or surgical procedures)
- Articles of manufacture (simple devices like pens, shoes, etc.)
- Machines (tools, engines, devices, electronic circuits, equipment, etc.)
Utility patent drawings can also feature graphical representations to illustrate abstract concepts (flowcharts, bar charts, electronic schematics, etc.). Ideally, utility patent applicants should include as many illustrations as possible to display every possible feature of their inventions.
Merely explaining the structure and operation of the invention isn’t enough – important elements need to be labeled with reference numbers so that they’re easily discernible from similar or related patents that have been published in the past.
Design Patent Drawings
Design patent applications typically cover inventions with unique qualities. For example, a new sofa design can be presented using detailed illustrations. While utility patent drawings cover the utilitarian aspects of inventions, design patent drawings are more focused on detailing the styling of inventions. That’s why most design patent applications typically feature several illustrations that display the invention from all possible viewpoints.
The goal of design patent drawings? The invention’s appearance should be clearly understandable! Design patent applicants mustn’t use reference numbers in their drawings. However, they must feature adequate shading so that surface contour can be depicted.
Plant Patent Drawings
Plant patent drawings are extremely rare because not many plant patents are filed every year. These patents only cover asexually duplicable plants (plants reproduced via grafting, cutting, and other human techniques). These drawings aim to artistically display every distinctive characteristic of the plant from as many angles as needed.
No Room for Low-Quality Patent Drawings
The PTO requires patent application drawings, irrespective of their type, to conform to very strict standards. In the past, the PTO’s Drafting Branch accepted freehand sketches and classified them as “informal drawings.” Application filed with informal drawings would even receive filing dates. The applicants had plenty of time to submit “formal drawings” before the application examination date.
Unfortunately, there has been a major rule change in recent years. The PTO’s Drafting Branch no longer classifies drawings as formal or informal. The office will either deem your patent drawings acceptable or not acceptable. So, if your patent illustrations aren’t easy to understand or reproducible for publication purposes, the OIPE will not give you filing dates.
The Need for Professional Assistance
While it has been said that all patent applicants must have a general understanding of the basics of patent application drawings, it’s becoming increasingly clear that non-specialists can’t create the highly detailed drawings that the USPTO and other patent offices across the world demand. That’s why patent application drawings are best left to professionals.
Whether you’re a solo inventor or a big firm practitioner – you can’t create patent application drawings that are flawless and meet all requirements of the patent offices. That’s why relying on illustration experts who specialize in patent drawings is the best option. These experts take on full responsibility for the drawings that are submitted by their clients.
The leading US patent drawings service providers operate digitally. So, the collaboration between the inventors and the artists shouldn’t be a problem. These artists create technical or utility patent drawings every day of their lives. They provide highly detailed formal drawings in four to five days. More importantly, these experts never refrain from providing modifications unless the patent applicants are fully satisfied with the drawings.Last modified: July 29, 2021