How Detailed Does a Patent Need to Be?

Rich Goldstein

Founder & Principal Patent Attorney

I know that a significant challenge inventors face is figuring out how best to document for a patent. If you’re working on an original idea presently, you would realize at the point of patent filing just how much work it could involve. 

I have successfully filed several patents, and it can be quite a hassle, especially if it’s your first. I decided to summarize my experience alongside comprehensive research of the entire process to provide you with the necessary details.

My goal in this article is to show you all the areas you need to cover when describing your invention, what language to use, and how best to present it.

How Detailed Does a Patent Need to Be?

A patent application needs to be detailed enough to include all relevant information about the patent. It must be detailed and precise enough that another party at a similar skill level in the same art could replicate the invention without requiring any extra details.  

A patent application is a request made to a patent office to grant patent rights for an invention. At first glance, drafting an application may seem daunting and impossible. However, with the right guidance, you can be well on your way to filing an impressive patent application

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Per, 35 U.S. Code § 154 – contents and term of patent, a patent application must include a specification that consists of the following sections: 

  • Title of the Invention: The title aims to provide a clear and quick explanation of your invention so the reader can easily understand it. It should be as short and specific as possible. 
  • Background: This section illuminates the field of invention further. It also describes the related or prior art that preceded your invention and the problems that inspired you to create it. 
  • Brief Summary of the Invention: The summary section always comes before the Detailed Description section and consists of a short yet complete overview of the invention. It highlights the most critical parts of the invention and explains how it works. The summary should be written in simple terms that the general public can understand. 
  • Brief Description of the Drawings: This section should include applications containing figures and diagrams. It should include a short description of what each figure in the application depicts. 
  • Detailed Description of the Invention: The detailed description explains the invention in full, clear, concise, and exact terms. This section should provide support and an antecedent basis for all the terms used in the claims. 
  • A Claim or Claims: This section defines the invention in legal terms and highlights its legally enforceable parts. The terms used in the claim must find support and antecedent basis in the Description so that their meanings are clearly understood by reference to the description. 
  • Abstract: The abstract section should contain 150 words or less in a paragraph pointing out what is new in the invention. It should not be a repetition of the claims or brief summary section. 
  • Oath or Declaration: This section usually names the inventor of the invention claimed. In the case of multiple inventors, each individual must execute an oath or declaration in connection with the application per 35 U.S.C. § 115

How to Write the Detailed Description of the Patent Application

The detailed description is the most essential part of any patent application, so great care must be taken in its development. This section should be conversational rather than technical. While it should contain some legal terms, the overall description should be understandable to a layman. 

The Description explains the invention’s structure, processes, or compositions in complete, clear, and accurate terms. When writing this description, references should be made to the figures in places where applicable, making use of reference numerals. 

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When writing the Description, per 37 CFR § 1.71, you should aim to meet the following goals: 

  • The invention should be quickly understood by a patent examiner, even without prior knowledge of the field (paraphrasing § 1.71(a))
  • The invention must stand out from any other inventions, and the description must clearly state how the invention works (paraphrasing § 1.71(b))
  • If it’s an improvement, the area or part being improved must be clearly specified, and the description should describe that alone ((paraphrasing § 1.71(c))
  • If a copyright or mask work notice is placed in a design or utility patent, the content of the notice cannot exceed the elements provided for by law ((paraphrasing § 1.71(d)). In addition, such notice would only be permitted if it is admitted using authorization language per § 1.71 (e).
  • Said specification must start on a distinct sheet per § 1.71 (f).
  • Specification may reveal or be adjusted to include other names in the case of a joint research agreement per § 1.71 (g).

How to Organize the Content of the Detailed Description

There are different ways to organize the content of a detailed description. You can either include the claims sections in the drawings section or describe the benefits and uses of the invention. 

Using the Claims to Write a Detailed Description 

When using the claims to write your Detailed Description, you first need to draft and develop your claims section before writing the Description. This way, you can decide on what terminology to use and ensure that it remains consistent throughout the application.  

Structure your Detailed Description around explaining all the terms, words, and phrases used in your claim. After explaining each word, you move on to the next until all the terms and phrases used in the claims have been explained. Note, however, that you may need the experience of an affordable patent attorney to help develop the claims.   

Using the Drawings to Write a Detailed Description 

According to patent application rules, the drawings and figures in the application must depict every feature listed in the claims. This implies that if you describe all the parts of the drawings, you would automatically explain all the concepts highlighted in the claims. 

An eyeglass on top of some documents

To use this method, structure your detailed description around explaining all the parts of the drawing in Figure 1. Then, you can proceed to Figure 2 and then Figure 3 until you reach the final figure. 

Using Each Benefit of the Invention to Write the Detailed Description 

Another way you can organize the Detailed Description is by explaining the benefits of the invention. When explaining each benefit, refer to the applicable parts of the drawings. Simply structure your Description around expatiating each of the invention’s benefits. 

After explaining the benefits, you should also describe how to make and use the invention. Many people consider this method the easiest way to organize the Detailed Description because it promotes a conversational, story-like approach. 

How Not to Start the Detailed Description Section

When writing a Detailed Description, do not start with boilerplate language. Many inventors make the mistake of using boilerplate language at the beginning of their Descriptions, believing it would make their writing more formal. However, all this does is make your writing boring from the start. 

If you must use boilerplate language, use them instead at the end of the Detailed Description. 

Here are some functional boilerplate language that you can use in the Description: 

  • “By way of example and not limitation”: You can use this to expand upon your preferred version. For instance, you may prefer to use a particular material. However, this does not mean other materials will not be considered. 
  • “Including but not limited to”: This is another way of saying “by way of example and not limitation.”
  • “May”: Use this word when not writing about a fact. This provides a broader interpretation of your invention 

Few Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Patent Application 

When writing a patent application, there are a few common mistakes that inventors should try to avoid. They include: 

Comparing to Previous Inventions 

 A common mistake people make when applying for patents is making a direct comparison between their invention and prior art or describing prior art. This is a major pitfall that you should avoid.

A man holding a pen about to sign a document

Writing in a Technical Manner

This is the most common mistake inventors make to make the application seem more thorough and formal. This is bad because it makes the application less easily understood by a layman with no experience in the field of invention. Refrain from using technical terms without providing a reasonable explanation for them. 

Overly Broad Terms

Many inventors use too broad terms, hoping to broaden the scope of patent protection the patent gives them. While you can use broad terms in the claims section, you should narrow the terms to specific details in the Detailed Description.    

Not Conducting Enough Research for Prior Art

Another common mistake is failing to thoroughly search for existing patents and prior art before filing an application. This can lead to an application rejection during the examination process.

Inconsistency in Language 

Using varying language in different application sections is another mistake you want to avoid. Ensure you choose the terminology carefully and stick to it throughout the application to prevent misinterpretation.

Inadequate Drawings

Drawings and figures play a massive role in any patent application, helping patent examiners better understand the features and concepts of the invention. Applications with poorly drawn or incomplete figures are highly likely to be rejected. Instead, the drawings should be clear, detailed, and supportive of the written description.

Poorly Drafted Abstract

The abstract is often the first thing patent examiners, competitors, and the public read. However, many inventors do not pay enough attention to it because of how short it is required. The abstract should not be a repeat of the claims. Instead, it should briefly highlight the new aspects of the innovation. 

How to Write a Patent Application

This step is the comprehensive answer to ‘How detailed does a patent need to be?’ Here are some general tips to consider when writing a patent application:

Conduct a Comprehensive Prior Art Search

Before drafting your application, it is advisable to conduct a thorough search to identify existing technology or inventions related to yours. This ensures your invention is novel and enables you to highlight its unique aspects, thus increasing its chances of being granted a patent. 

Clearly Define the Invention’s Purpose and Benefits 

It is vital to describe your invention’s exact functions and benefits in the application. You can do this by highlighting the invention’s problems and describing how it solves them. This will help you create solid claims and make your application more persuasive.

Use Clear and Accurate Language

Using clear, accurate, and consistent language is imperative when writing any patent application. Avoid vague or ambiguous terms that can lead to misinterpretation, and define all industry-specific terms as plainly as possible. This ensures an easy understanding of the application.

Review Thoroughly

Before filing, conduct a thorough review of the application from start to finish. Ensure that your descriptions are clear, the language is consistent,  the drawings are complete, and the descriptions and claims align. You can also give the application to someone else -preferably a professional- to review with a pair of fresh eyes. 

Thorough revision reduces the risk of objections during the examination process and improves the overall quality of the application.

Understand Patent Office Requirements

It is essential to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements and criteria for filing a patent application with the patent office where you intend to file. Different regions may have unique guidelines and regulations that you must comply with to increase your chances of approval. 

A man in a suit holding a cup of coffee

The United States Patents and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a set of guidelines for applying for a patent

Seek Professional Guidance

Lastly, consider consulting with a qualified patent attorney. Their expertise in patent law can be precious, as they can provide insights that will help you navigate potential application process challenges. Working with a patent attorney also dramatically improves the quality of your patent application, thereby increasing your chances of success.  

Related Questions 

How Much Detail Do You Need With a Patent?

In a patent application, you need a high level of detail to fully describe the invention, including its structure, function, processes, and unique features. The level of detail should be such that a person skilled in the relevant field can understand and replicate the invention based on the disclosure. These details include clear language, well-drawn figures, and accurate descriptions. 

What Are the 3 Criteria for a Patent? 

The three main criteria for obtaining a patent are novelty, non-obviousness, and utility. Novelty requires that the invention is new and not publicly disclosed before the filing date. Non-obviousness requires that the invention not be a noticeable improvement over existing art. Utility requires that the invention must have a practical and proper function. 

What Are the Requirements for a Provisional Patent Application? 

The requirements for a provisional patent application include:

  1. A clear indication that the applicant is filing a provisional application
  2. The fee
  3. Description of the invention that enables someone to make and use the invention
  4. Drawings, if necessary, to understand the invention
  5. Cover Sheet clearly indicates that the applicant is filing a provisional form
  6. Must be filed within 12 months to claim priority for a nonprovisional application.

Note that provisional applications cannot be filed for design inventions. 

Conclusion

Now, you know the answer to ‘How detailed does a patent need to be?’ The truth is the perfect patent application does not exist. However, you can always improve your chances of getting a great patent application by contracting the services of a patent attorney. Make sure to follow the instructions and tips provided above to enable you to draft a well-detailed patent. 

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