I recently had the opportunity to assist a client in the creation of technical patent specifications for their augmented reality technology. It was an interesting process and one that was new to me but thankfully we had a patent lawyer who could guide us through the entire process. In this short article, I’ll share a bit about my experience and pass along some tips that I learned along the way.
To provide some context, my role was to bridge the gap between my client’s subject matter experts and the patent lawyer. The goal was to ensure that we would capture all of the technical information necessary to describe the technology while fulfilling all of the legal mumbo jumbo required by the U.S. patent office. The end result would be a “patent specification” that the patent lawyer would draw up using the technical information that I and gathered and assembled.
I soon learned that when embarking on a patent specification, the goal is to create a set of details such that anyone with “reasonable knowledge” in that field could use to completely recreate the invention described in your patent. You can almost think of it like a cookbook. You describe the ingredients required and the process for combining those ingredients to form the final product. The goal is to do it such a way that your description could be used to defend against any future patent infringement in court, while not giving away your company secrets. Needless to say, this where the guidance of a patent lawyer is essential.
The patent lawyer advised that I start by creating a set of illustrations describing all aspects of the patent. We started with block diagrams that lay out the required physical components and their relationships (e.g. network, servers, etc.) and then moved on to more advanced illustrations describing the processes, outputs, etc. With the illustrations in place, I then wrote the content for each, and them as the basic organization for the patent specification.
Another thing I learned is that patents tend to be written with very specific details yet remain broadly encompassing to account for variations. While crafting the content, I was encouraged to use phrases like “such as, but not limited to” when specifying technical details or providing lists of items. In doing so, I was able to provide very specific details that anyone with reasonable field knowledge could use or get a sense of what is required, while leaving the specification open to other similar items or processes. This was also used in cases where I needed to illustrate the types of processes required without giving away my client’s secrets that make them unique.
Another one of my observations is that while patent specifications are targeted for anyone with reasonable knowledge in your field, they also often contain very elementary details that anyone could understand. In the patent specifications I worked on, the lawyer advised that it start with very elementary descriptions of the underlying requirements such as describing the physical components. For example, we started off by briefly describing what a computer network and a server are. While anyone in the technology field probably knows what these things are, it’s important to cover such basics as anyone with different levels of knowledge could be reading the patent.
An interesting observation I made is that the patent specification doesn’t necessarily have to have a good “flow” to it like regular documentation. In normal technical writing, we usually start with a good introduction, and place emphasis on well-organized content that follows a logical order. But with a patent specification-especially one that is organized around illustrations-content doesn’t always flow as nicely as it does in a standard user guide for example, and often becomes somewhat convoluted to follow. This almost seems to be the norm in the patent world, almost as if it were to help deter others from easily grasping what you have written. However, it turns out that that is not a big deal in the patent world. As the patent lawyer put it, all that matters is that the required information is within the “four corners” of the document. If you can satisfy that requirement, then you’re good to go.
One way to help strengthen a patent is when you can reference other patents that you have created. In my client’s case, they had a series of patents related to their overall invention which could be cross referenced. This is another area where a patent lawyer is invaluable as they can help point out aspects of your invention that you may be able to put into separate patents, for an extra cost of course! But by doing so you may be able to partition aspects of your invention into separate invention patents that could be used to provide extra defence in court against infringements on very specific aspects.
So to wrap things up, the creation of a patent specification is one where you’ll definitely want to consult the services of a patent lawyer. The organization of content is a bit different from regular technical writing but all that matters is that the information is present and complete. Moreover, that information needs to be complete enough for anyone to recreate your invention, yet broad enough as to not give away your company secrets, while covering all of the different aspects or processes that could be used to achieve the same results.