Patents contain many sections. Most of a patent document is related to the written description of the product and drawings, but the most important piece of a patent document is the claims section. Why so? The claims define what the inventor actually owns, preventing competitors from entering the inventor’s market. This means the language used in a patent claim is vitally important. If a claim is poorly written or if the claim is too narrow, it will not provide an inventor with the protection he or she deserves. The question arises then: What kind of language should a patent claim contain?
Broad vs. Narrow Claim Language
The USTPO, in section 2111 of the MPEP, states , “Claims must be given their broadest reasonable interpretation in light of the specification.” Why is this the case? Section 2111 continues, “giving a claim its broadest reasonable interpretation will reduce the possibility that the claim, once issued, will be interpreted more broadly than is justified.”
The scope of the patent language will depend to a large degree on the novel features of the product that distinguish it over any similar prior art. When only a few novel features are needed to distinguish the invention from prior art, the claim will be broad. On the other hand, when many novel features must be mentioned in the claim to distinguish the invention from prior art, coverage will be narrow and it will be easier for competitors to create a similar product with the same function without infringing.
Simply put, broad claim language gives an inventor ownership of more intellectual property while narrow claim language gives an inventor ownership of less intellectual property. Broad claims are generally more valuable because the narrower the claims are, the easier it is to design around the invention protected by the patent.
Is Legal Assistance Necessary When Drafting a Patent Claim?
Unfortunately, drafting a patent claim that provides sufficient protection for any invention is an extremely complicated task. The best way to be sure you aren’t getting protection that is narrower than what you are entitled to receive is to get assistance from a qualified patent attorney. I would be more than happy to assist you through the drafting process and help you make sure you leave no loose ends that potential competitors could take advantage of in the future.
Kelly G. Swartz is a patent attorney licensed to practice in front of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and in the state of Florida. She limits her practice to intellectual property law including patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets.