When Are Patent Drawings NOT Required?admin
It is almost always a requirement to file patent drawings with a patent application. There are some exceptions to this rule – however, even when there are exceptions, it’s often advisable to go ahead and include a patent drawing anyway.
The US Patent and Trademark Office says the following about drawings for utility patent applications:
A patent application is required to contain drawings if drawings are necessary to understand the subject matter to be patented. Most patent applications contain drawings. The drawings must show every feature of the invention as specified in the claims. A drawing necessary to understand the invention cannot be introduced into an application after the filing date of the application because of the prohibition against new matter.
For design patents, there is no option about drawings: drawings are required, and the drawing IS the claim. As stated above for utility applications, drawings are only needed if they are “necessary to understand the subject matter.” You may feel you can explain the invention perfectly clearly – but as the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and since even if you can explain it without a drawing, the drawing will make the invention clearer, you’re well advised to include one or more drawings.
One case where patent drawings are explicitly NOT required is for chemical compounds. It’s considered sufficient to describe the chemical formula. However, many patent applications for chemical compounds include drawings anyway, especially if it helps explain how the compound is attained, for example this drawing that accompanies US Patent 6,469,198, a “chiral copper complex catalyst:”
Another case where drawings are not required would be a method patent; methods can generally be described in words. However, as can be seen from this drawing, even for method patents, drawings often help make the concept clearer and easier for the patent examiner to understand:
Add Drawings Later?
The US is a signatory to the Patent Law Treaty, which came into effect in 2013. One of the rules in the treaty is that it explicitly states drawings are no longer necessary to obtain a filing date for a patent application.
You might be tempted to think, “great, I can submit the drawings later, I don’t have to spend the time or money just to make the initial application to secure a filing date.” This could be a costly mistake. As mentioned above, there is a prohibition against adding “new matter” after the patent has been filed. If the drawing contains anything that is not explicitly described – and drawings often do – it would not be allowed as it would constitute “new matter.” The only alternative would be to file a completely new application – losing the original filing date, rendering the original filing pointless.
Patent Drawings Backup the Description
No matter how thoroughly you try and describe something, it’s possible to leave something out of the description. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the top patent court in the US, has ruled that anything shown in the drawings is part of the disclosure and claim. Therefore the drawing can be an excellent “backup” in case something was accidentally left out of the written description.
Even though there are some limited situations where a patent drawing would not be needed, it is almost always advisable to include one or more drawings with a patent application, even for chemical compounds and method patents. Even in the rare cases where drawings might be optional, they almost always add value and are an inexpensive way to strengthen a patent application. Contact us for information on how we can help you with your patent drawing needs.