How to write a patent description

This is part of a series of articles on the basics of writing a patent specification. The full series covers the description, claims, drawings and abstract. The overview article and starting point is “How to write a patent specification“.

The series uses a silly, fictional invention as an example: a rotary cutter for shearing sheep. This is probably a terrible invention but, in reality, most are.

The description is the meat and bones of a patent specification. It describes what the invention is and what it does, it explains what its advantages are, and it describes variations and modifications that could be made to the core idea. Importantly, it must provide sufficient information to enable a skilled reader to make the invention. You cannot patent an invention and also keep its essential details a trade secret.

A common error when writing the description is to put everything in vague or overly general terms. The motivation behind this error is the fear that precision means that a competitor could easily work around a granted patent with a minor modification. But vague writing hobbles the whole specification and reduces the chances of obtaining any granted patent at all. The key is to write with clarity and precision and then to build carefully crafted generalities onto that solid foundation.

A description is made up of three main sections, the Background, the Summary and the Detailed Description.
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How to write a patent specification

If there is any part of the patent process where you should get good, professional advice, it is in writing the patent specification. It is easy to get wrong and difficult to fix later. That can leave you with a useless patent or no patent at all.

But understanding how a specification is written is important if you are trying to protect your invention. The specification describes your intellectual property and you need to understand it to really know what the patent protects.

This guide introduces the process for crafting a patent specification. Every inventor should read it whether or not they can afford to get a professionally drafted patent. For those who cannot afford professional advice, it can point you in the right direction to write your own specification.

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Patents and how to get them

A patent is one form of intellectual property (IP). It turns an intellectual idea into a piece of property that can be bought and sold just like a physical object such as a car or a house.

Another person cannot take your car or enter your house without your permission: that would be theft or trespass. There are many laws which tell other people what they can and cannot do with your physical property.

In the same way, there are many laws which tell people what they can and cannot do with your intellectual property. For a patent, one important law is that another person cannot make or sell a patented invention without the patent owner’s permission.

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