It may seem simple, but reading a patent and fully understanding what the patent actually covers can be rather difficult. Let’s begin by reviewing the main sections of the patent. First, we have the patent identification information: the patent number, title, patent holder’s name, owner of the patent (if different), the filing date, the issue date and cited references. Next, we have an abstract which outlines the type of the invention and its basic functions. We then have the patent specifications which explain how to develop and use the invention. We then have drawings of the invention. Lastly, and most importantly, we have the claims, or the legal limitations that the patent covers.
While the specification will cover the invention in general, it does not represent the patent’s legal coverage. Claims are usually very specific and do not cover many of the key functions of the invention as described in the specification. Claims come in two primary classifications, independent claims and dependent claims. Dependent claims incorporate an earlier claim and an additional element making a new, slightly different claim.
Constructing your claim can be very difficult and will likely include several rounds of modifications during the patent prosecution process. Saving money on your startup by claiming a patent on your own and avoiding the cost of patent and I.P. lawyers, may sound like a good idea. However, if you are not familiar with the claims process, you will likely find that the process will be difficult and time consuming. Even worse, your start-up’s patent may not cover key claims that will protect your invention down the road.