• Are drawings required for patent applications?

    Once you have completed your patent search and have determined that you have an invention that is capable of being patented, the next step is putting together your patent application. The patent application is submitted to the United States Patent Office who will then determine if your invention meets the three requirements for patentability: new, non-obvious and usefulness. One of the many requirements of a patent application is that it must include a drawing. All patent applications must have a minimum of one drawing included in the application, although the more complex the invention is, the more drawings need to be included. It is typical to see cross-section blowups of parts of the invention or enlargements of intricate parts of the invention. However, it is less important in some patents then others. For example, if you developed a new type of bike, drawings will be helpful for the patent examiner to show how it works. On the other hand, if you developed a new pharmaceutical drug, the drawing will not be as helpful as knowing the chemical structure and compound. Also, for design patents, the drawings are the single most important aspect in determining if there is a new ornamental or aesthetic quality to the product.

    There are two different forms that drawings can take: formal or informal. Formal drawings are typically in the form of CAD drawings (computer-aided design). Informal drawings are typically photocopies of hand drawn sketches. The United States Patent Office strongly recommends that you file formal drawings with your application. However, if you are racing to file your application and do not have the time to create formal drawings or you do not have the ability to create formal drawings or do not have the money to pay a professional to create them, you should submit informal drawings.
    Typically, the patent office will reject the informal drawings and give you a three-month extension to submit the formal drawings. This gives the inventor two advantages. First and most importantly, it allows the inventor to keep their application date which can be important in priority battles over who was the first to invent something. The second advantage is that it gives you more time to create the drawing or pay someone else to create the drawings. It is also important to remember that if you are planning to file your patent application in foreign countries, you will be required to submit formal drawings meeting the international standards within 11 months of filing your application.

    Regardless of the form that you intend to submit your drawings in, you should first review the patent office requirements for formal drawings. Even if you submit informal drawings, you should still try to follow the formal drawing requirements as closely as possible since it is likely that the patent office will make you submit new drawings in the future and it will save you time in having to make a lot of modifications to the informal drawings.

    When you submit your application for review, you application will be given to an examiner within the subject matter of your invention and the drawings will be given to a United States Patent Office drawing inspector. All of the drawing inspectors within the patent office are required to be draftsperson so they know exactly what they are looking for when reviewing the drawings to see if they conform to the patent office standards. Regardless if the drawings that you submit are informal or formal, they will still go through the review process.

    If the drawings that you submit for consideration fail to meet the standards or are in an informal form and the patent office requests formal drawings, the drawing inspector will submit a “Notice of draftsperson’s patent drawing review.” This notice of review consists of 17 different categories and the draftsperson checks off if there are problems in one or more of the categories. Some of the common reasons that drawings will be rejected by the drawing inspector is that they are informal instead of formal, figure numbering/reference numbers are incorrect or missing (the numbering scheme that you use must align with the rest of the sections of the patent application), or drawing headings are incorrect or missing. Since the process of completing your drawings is complex and the patent office has many requirements, most people use a professional patent draftsperson to draft their drawings. If you choose to go this route, you can find draftsperson online or in your local yellow pages. Their level of expertise and familiarity with the patent office specifications will determine their price per hour or per drawing.
  • Ask a Legal Question