Over the past several months, I have worked with a professional patent drawing company who provides patent drawings for utility and design patent applications; but I recently prepared a utility patent application for an inventor who insisted on providing his own patent drawings. I generally prefer to work with a professional drawing company because they provide high quality drawings, while catering to my needs as a patent attorney, and my client’s needs as an inventor. Working with inventors, however, can be difficult, as many inventors do not initially understand the drawing requirements of the USPTO and are often resistant to guidance from me, the patent attorney.
So why do I bother with patent drawings in the first place? The main reason is that it is required. Under 37 C.F.R. § 1.81(a), patent applicants must furnish a drawing where it is necessary for the understanding of the subject matter sought to be patented. The drawing in a nonprovisional application must show every feature of the invention specified in the claims. See 37 C.F.R. § 1.83(a). Thus, drawings are required for vast majority of patent applications. But how good do the drawings have to be?
Practically, the drawings should be clear enough to describe the invention, such that they provide a visual concept of the invention being patented to those who are not familiar with the invention. Based on number of stick figures and distorted creatures featured in many registered patents, the USPTO doesn’t seem to pass much judgment on an artist’s level of drawing skills. So it seems to me that the drawings don’t have to be excellent per se for them to be accepted by the USPTO. This is good news for many inventors who do not wish to spend a lot of money on professional drawings.
On the same token, drawings are often the first thing that the public sees, so it is a way for inventors to make a good first impression to potential investors, licensees, patent buyers, and the like. Accordingly, it makes sense that high quality drawings be used to make the invention more appealing and marketable. What should marketable drawings look like? To me, I think it’s important to show simple figures that show every aspect of the invention. I try to stay away from over-annotating, or including words or trademark that don’t relate to how the invention works, which tend to distract from the actual drawing of the invention.
For most devices, I am a fan of exploded views, as well as views of the invention as used, because it is easier to visualize how all of the pieces come together and how the devices work. For electronics, I almost always include a schematic diagram because I find that they are the best ways to show all of the elements that are not visible from the outside, while showing the relationship between those elements.
I guess all in all, better drawings may result a patent application to become more purchasable, but not necessarily more patentable. Maybe this means that investing on professionally drawn figures in a patent application can be worthwhile, not to mention convenient.