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How to Prepare Patent Drawings

Tracy P. Jong, Esq., Patent and Trademark Attorney
Cheng-Ning Jong, P.E., B.S., M.S., Registered Patent Agent

Course Outline

The patent applicant is required by law to furnish a drawing of the invention whenever the nature of the case requires a drawing to understand the invention. In this course, you will learn how to prepare formal patent drawings. This two-hour course will focus primarily on utility and design patent drawings. The student will learn how to prepare formal patent drawings.

This course includes a multiple choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

This course teaches the following specific knowledge and skills:

Intended Audience

This course is intended for engineers, corporate management and private practice.

Benefit to Attendees

Attendee for this course will learn how to prepare formal patent drawings.

Course Introduction

At some point in your career, you may be required to produce patent drawings. This is true for both in-house engineers and those in private practice. The rules for patent drawings are fairly detailed, but once you have mastered the basics, you can easily produce patent drawings of all types. It can also be a great source of "side income" if your job permits moonlighting and you are careful about conflicts of interest with respect to the technologies you work with. Working with inventors can be fun work - the personalities and state of the art technology are rarely boring.

Drawings will be required for most inventions. This may be surprising to engineers, but engineering drawings are not acceptable as patent drawings. It may also be surprising that color drawings are not preferred, despite the technology available to produce them with ease. Patent drawings have specific standards that must be adhered to, and are generally not the same as the standards for engineering drawings. Engineering drawings, however, may be used as informal drawings in some cases.

In general, there are three types of patent drawings: utility patent drawings, design patent drawings and plant patent drawings. This PDH course will focus primarily on utility and design patent drawings since these are the most commonly encountered drawings for most engineers.

Utility patent drawings are used with inventions such as machines, equipment, articles of manufacture, compositions of matter (chemicals, pharmaceuticals, biological agents, for example) and new uses of existing devices. The drawings support the written description of the invention and form part of the disclosure.

Design patent drawings are used for unique ornamental designs. Ornamental designs may comprise surface ornamentation and/or novel configurations of parts that add to their esthetics. In design patents, the drawings are the "meat" of the specification and are used to describe and claim the patented features.

Plant patent drawings are used for patents on asexually reproduced plants (e.g. hybrids formed by grafting and cutting). In these drawings, the distinguishing characteristics of the plant are depicted. These are one of the rare cases when color drawings are used.

Formal drawings meeting patent guidelines will be required for utility and design patent applications prior to issuance. It may be permissible to use informal drawings at the early stages, however, it is preferable to do a formal set in all cases when engaged. It rarely takes more effort. Informal drawings should be the province of non-engineer scientists or inventor laypersons. Experienced patent draftsmen claim that the Patent Office is relaxing its strict stance on drawing requirements, however, it certainly is best to avoid drawing rejections for informalities. Issues as to who should be responsible for the cost of the corrections and any filing fees associated with the refiling of corrected drawings are less than comfortable situations.

Informal drawings may be used for provisional applications and, in some cases, for utility applications when not rejected by the US Patent Office. Informal drawings are essentially drawings that do not meet the Patent Office guidelines.

In process inventions or software patents, drawings may consist of standard industry flowcharts or block diagrams describing the steps. The appropriate industry standard designations should be used whenever possible. This avoids the introduction of ambiguity or confusion in the patent prosecution or enforcement.

Patent drawings should illustrate the novel concepts and significant features of the invention. Ascertaining what features and aspects to emphasize requires a combination of skill, experience and consultation with the inventor or patent attorney/agent.

The drawings form a part of the specification, or disclosure of the invention, in the patent application. The patent rules require that the specification teach a person of ordinary skill in the art how to make and use the invention. Understanding this will help you focus on your task of adequately representing an invention in patent drawings.

We have been engaged to create a set of patent drawings for a superduper deluxe widget ("widget" for short). Widget is a simple mechanical device. Now what do we do?

Think of it like this: the drawings are something like a cook book, or instructional manual, for someone who knows nothing about this invention. In the best cases, especially for mechanical inventions, drawings that tell a story and show someone how to make one of the novel widgets. Ask yourself, if I gave someone these drawings, could they go out and build a widget? Could they figure out how to use it?

Patent drawings should represent relationships among various components and how they assembled with respect to one another. While not the only acceptable way to render acceptable patent drawings, it is preferable to use a perspective view whenever possible. The advantages are probably obvious: that the spatial arrangement of parts is clear, and that fewer drawings will be required to adequately show and describe the many features.

For example, look at the single drawing below. Can you tell the widget is a robotic fish device? Can you visualize the relationship among various components? Can you begin to see how to build your own robo-fish?

The skilled patent draftsmen sets the stage for the story that will be described in the portion of the specification entitled something like "detailed description of the preferred embodiment." The drawings guide the organized description of the mechanical and structural features of the invention. Patentability often focuses more on structure than function so your role is critical to the successful acquisition of a patent for the inventor.
The first drawing is often a depiction of the invention in its intended use and the second drawing is often a depiction of the invention alone. Further drawings include different views of the invention and close up views as necessary to adequately convey the many features of the invention. Further drawings also typically include other "embodiments" or alternate designs of the invention or certain components. They may also show the invention in a variety of applications.
Now, let's look at some of the particular rules for patent drawings.

Course Content

In this lesson, you are required to download and study the following course content in MS Word format:

How to Prepare Patent Drawings

Please click on the above underlined hypertext to view, download or print the document for your study. Because of the large file size, we recommend that you first save the file to your computer by right clicking the mouse and choosing "Save Target As ...", and then open the file in Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you still experience any difficulty in downloading or opening this file, you may need to close some applications or reboot your computer to free up some memory.

Course Summary

Patent drawings may differ from ordinary engineering drawings, however, by mastering a few general principles, you will be prepared to produce professional quality patent drawings in any "art." (An art is a technical area). As a review, the most important things to remember are:

Good Luck!



Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.