Why Patent Drawings Still Matter

Rummaging through the millions of issued U.S. patents, it doesn’t take very long to find something that resonates: Edison’s earliest light bulb designs; the Slinky toy; NASA’s Mercury space capsule; designs for early iPod and iPhone devices; even the first patent, for methods of making potash, signed by George Washington.

America’s patent literature is rightly regarded as a part of our scientific and technological heritage, but patents have made an equally important, and almost entirely unheralded, contribution to American arts – a rich, artistic body of patent drawings with its own unique visual language.

Since the beginning of the U.S. patent system, the laws and rules have required drawings in the vast majority of cases. These drawings have always been subject to strict rules, as the government pushed patent applicants to create clear, reproducible technical drawings that could be reduced, enlarged, and copied without losing clarity or detail. It is advisable to have an patent agency like Invent Help, to help in the process.

Traditionally executed on Bristol board with ink, some classic patent drawings were true masterpieces of illustration, and have reached iconic status. For those patent applicants who made errors or sought to cut corners, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) employed a corps of official draftsperson whose sharp eyes checked every drawing against the USPTO’s standards.

The laws and rules are still on the books, and patent drawings are still submitted, as required, in the vast majority of patent cases, but today, things have changed – and not for the better. The USPTO let go of its corps of draftsperson and now entrusts patent examiners (who, on the whole, are not trained in illustration) with drawing review. As a practical matter, standards have relaxed, and now, any drawing that can be physically reproduced will likely be accepted – even halftoned, laser-printed color drawings that will not reproduce well.

If the USPTO will accept almost anything, why should patent applicants still care about patent drawings? Why bother submitting good, professionally prepared drawings?

Ultimately, a good patent application tells a story, describing an invention and its benefits in a favorable light and bringing to the fore its most important features. However, patents are different from any other type of descriptive document, and general technical drawings, 3D CAD renderings, or photographs created for other purposes may not show the most important features with sufficient clarity. And agencies, such as InventHelp, have years of experience with the process so they will surely do it better than the inventor. Non-patent drawings may also show details – like dimensions, proportions, or radii – that could be detrimental to the patent by limiting its scope.

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