Tucson, AZ asked in Patents (Intellectual Property) for Arizona

Q: Why is it that in patent drawings, I do not see the invention depicted as it is being used very often?

Is it bad form in a patent drawing to show the invention being used so there is an understanding of how it works? I have a very simple tool to draw and it is probably not clear from just a drawing of the tool how it is used on a workpiece. If the drawings demonstrate the method of using the tool does that mean the patent is covering method also and may complicate things unnecessarily?

1 Lawyer Answer
Peter D. Mlynek
Peter D. Mlynek
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Moorestown, NJ

A: The reason why we have drawings in a patent is to communicate to the reader what the invention is all about. The drawings are there to support the claims. Whatever you claim, make sure that it is fully supported in the description and drawings.

I think that you are correct that many times the drawings do not show how the article or device (or tool, in your case) are used. I think that this is a mistake, and I believe that if drawings that clarify the use of the tool should be included. You should put it in.

But there is a reason why the drawing of the use of the tool is frequently omitted. The reason is that a patent that claims the tool is much more valuable than a patent to the method of using the tool. It has to do with enforcement: if the patent owner sees someone else selling the tool, it is easy to go after the seller or maker of the infringing tool. But if the patent claims the method, then the patent owner has to find a person who is using the tool in the same way as is claimed in the patent, sue the user, and sue the seller and maker of the tool as contributory infringers. Patents claiming the method of use are thus more difficult to enforce compared to the patent claiming the tool itself.

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