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The articles in this section are transcripts from my “Patenting for Inventors” podcast. You can read articles covering more 80 topics related to how to patent your invention. Alternatively, you can listen to the podcast by clicking the podcast link or image below.


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Patent Drawings. Episode 14


These articles are near verbatim transcripts of my “Patenting for Inventors” podcast. Click here, or the podcast image to get to the podcast feed.

Patent Drawings. Episode 14

This podcast episode is related to patent drawings for a utility patent, not a design patent. I’ll cover design patents and patent drawings in another episode.  The first thing you should know about patent drawings is that you probably shouldn’t do them yourself. You can’t just draw something, even if you draw it really well, and usually have the patent office accept it, because there are lots of rules about what’s required and what’s prohibited in the drawings.  I like to do my drawings after I do the claims instead of trying to do the written description first. Once you have your drawings, I think it makes it much easier to write the rest of your application because it’s mostly just going through in detail, discussing every part in your drawings.

This is going to be a pretty technical podcast episode because there are just lots of technical requirements, and if you go type Google “37 CFR 1.84,” you’ll find all the rules.  

In this episode I’m just going to go over some of the major requirements you need to know.

There are exceptions to some of the rules I’m going over, but if you follow these rules, there will be a lower chance of getting an objection rather than relying on one of the exceptions.

We can break down the main requirements into 4 parts.  Rules for the page, rules for drawing the invention, rules for labeling, and rules for lines.

For the page rules. Your drawings have to be on 8.5 by 11 or A4 paper. For the margins, you have to have at least 2.5 centimeters on the top and left, 1.5 centimeters on the right, and 1 cm on the bottom.  To make it easy on myself and so I don’t have to remember all that, I just make all my margins an 1 inch margins on each side. The patent office prefers that the drawings are drawn in the upright vertical orientation position on the page, but if your invention is a lot wider than it is tall, then its OK to rotate the page so it’s horizontal. Those are the main rules for the page requirements.

For the invention itself, you need to make as many drawings as are necessary to show all the parts of your invention.  Most of the time this requires you do to multiple view of the same embodiment. Sometimes you’ll have to do a cross section or other view if you need to show something the inside of your invention. 

There are some standard views that you’ll see in patents, and you don’t necessarily need to put in all of them, but you should be aware of the standard views, which are top, bottom view, side, front, rear, perspective views and cross-sectional views. You can also have views that are called exploded views which is a view of your invention when all the individual pieces are separated from each other. There are variations of these views but these are the main ones. You can see some examples of patent drawings in the patent I’ve talked about before for the avocado slicer. Do a patent search using Google patents for U.S. patent 8726799 and look at the drawings there, because I’ll refer to some of the things in there in the rest of this episode.

In your drawing, the lines of the drawing should be black and clearly legible. Don’t make them too thin and don’t draw lines that are too close together. The lines in your drawings should be clear and separated enough so that even if the drawings are shrunk down to 2/3rds the size, each line is still distinct. You also don’t want to put anywhere on your drawings about not being drawn to size or the saying what the proportions are. 

Using shading in your drawings is fine and it’s even encouraged to show curved features of your invention, but don’t use gray scale, use curved lines to show shading or you can use a technique called stippling, which is a bunch of little black dots that help show shading. 

You can also use different patterns to differentiate different parts of your invention, but don’t use blocks of blacks or variations of gray scale if you can avoid it because you’ll often get an objection if you do that.  In the avocado slicer patent, they didn’t use any patterns, but you can see how they used lines to show the curved surface of the device in Figure 2.

The next thing is the labeling.  Several things are labeled in your drawings.  The sheets are labeled, the figures are labeled, and the individual parts of your invention are labeled.  Each sheet has to be labeled with two numbers. You won’t see these on the printed patent but you have to do it when you file your documents.

The sheet numbering has to start with what sheet it is, and then how many sheets there are total, and you need to put this in the top middle of page, but not in the margin.  After the sheet number you put slash, and then after the slash you put the total number of sheets. So if there are 5 sheets, the first sheet will have 1/5, in Arabic numerals.  The next sheet will say 2/5, etc. until you get to page 5/5.  This is important because if you ever have to make any changes to the drawings, the Patent Office is going to want to know what sheet of drawings you’re referring to. 

Next are the figure numbers.  Next to each figure, I usually put it below the figure, the figure is labeled “Fig.” So the first figure will be Fig. 1, then Fig. 2, etc.   You can put more than one figure on a page if it fits, but you don’t have to, If you look at the avocado slicer patent example look on the second page of drawings, which has figures 3 through 6. You can see that they fit four figures on a single page. As long as you can do it without making your figures too small, that’s fine.

Next are the reference numbers.  You shouldn’t put any words in your drawings. If there’s really no way to show the invention without putting a simple word, like “steam” or “open” or sometimes schematic drawings or flowcharts will have a few words, but try to avoid words if you can. Instead, almost every part of your invention is going to be labeled with what are called reference numbers. What you do is put in a number near the part and then draw a line from that number pointing to the part. Most drawings will use just even numbers for all the parts but there’s no rule about that. 

I think it’s useful to use even numbers because if I forget to label something between two numbers then I can add the odd numbered thing between those two numbers so the numbers in the figures are all numerically right around each other.

What you do with the numbers in the application is that when you are writing the description of your invention, every time you mention that part, you also write the corresponding reference number in the drawing so that someone reading your application can follow along with the drawings.

For example, if you look at figure 3 of the avocado patent, look at the number 302 that’s pointing to one of the slicing blades and if you look at the description of the invention, you’ll see that that every time the inventor says “slicing element” its followed by number 302. 

It’s almost always better to over label than to under label your figures, so even if something that looks as simple as a 3-in-1 avocado slicer might have more than 50 different parts labeled.  Another thing, is that you want to keep your numbering consistent throughout the figures, so if you labeled a slicing blade number 302 in figure 3, and that same slicing blade is also in figure 4, you also number it 302, don’t give it a new number just because it’s a new figure.

As for the sizes of labeling everything, there are specific rules about sizes, but the way I do it is that I’ll use size 12 for the reference numbers, size 16 for sheet numbering, and size 36 for Figure numbering, and I haven’t gotten any rejections based on that.

The last part are the lines and this actually goes along with the reference numbers.  You shouldn’t put the reference number on top of the part in your drawing, you should place it near the number but not right next to it.  You want to give some space between the part and the reference number, and then from the reference number you draw a line pointing to that part. This is called a lead line.

Most people draw their lead lines with a little bit of a curve and not totally straight, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. I think it just looks a little bit cleaner when the lead lines are slightly curved because you make out the difference more easily between the invention itself and the lead lines.  

You usually have the end of the lead line touch the part in your figure, and you don’t put in an arrow at the end of your lead line for most parts.  You use arrows when you want to point to general regions or sections, or want to specifically point to a surface of an object.  For example in the avocado patent example, if you look at figures 3-5 you’ll see reference number 280 and an arrow at the end of that line pointing to a part of the device. And if you read the application 280 is listed as a knife.  In the drawings you’ll see that the line from 280 has an arrow that just points the general knife region of the device and not actually touching the knife region. 

In that general knife region you’ll see other numbers like 292, which is listed as a “first edge” or 294, which is a second edge.  Both 292 and 294 are those are specific parts of the knife region, which is why they don’t have arrows, but the general knife region does use an arrow because it’s pointing to the whole region of the device.

If you want to point out a particular surface, you also want to use an arrow.  For example, maybe you want to specifically mention the inner surface of an object, then the arrow should actually touch the surface of what you’re pointing to.

Also, another important thing about lines is what I call the Ghostbusters rule of lead lines.  If you remember from the movie, they used proton packs that show out proton stream, and Egon said,. “Don’t cross the streams. It would be bad.  Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”

So, think about your lead lines as the same as proton pack streams streams, do not cross them. Lead lines should never cross over another lead line. If you have to draw curved lined to go around another lead line then do that, because if you cross lead lines you’re going to get a drawing objections.

I’d suggest hiring someone to do your drawings. Even patent attorneys don’t generally do the drawings themselves, they hire someone to do it. The drawings might be $20-$50 per page depending on the person and the complexity.  So even if you need 10 drawings, which is on the high end, we’re talking maybe $500.  In the grand scheme of things related to your business or invention, this is a pretty low cost because in the end it will save you a lot of headaches and most likely you’ll probably get an objection if you try to do it yourself, and then you’ll have to pay someone to fix it up anyway, so you may as well get it done right to start with.

If you want help with drafting your patent application and drawings, I do offer those services through my practice at Diament patent law. Check out the rest of the website or contact me if you have any questions.