The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings true in patent law. As any inventor knows, patent drawings are one of the most important aspects of a patent application. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) “requires applicants to submit drawings of their invention if such drawings are necessary to understand its workings.” (1). These drawings illustrate to the patent examiner and the general public the complex processes, formulations, or descriptions contained within the rest of the patent application.
Given the tremendous importance of patent drawings, many inventors may wonder about the best way to make such drawings. In general, an inventor has two options: 1) make the drawings themselves or 2) hire a professional draftsperson to make the drawings. Both options come with their advantages and disadvantages. By drafting the drawings yourself, an inventor can save time and money but may not know what aspects of the drawing are relevant to a patent application. On the other hand, hiring a professional draftsperson, despite the additional cost, yields drawings that are often more in line with what the USPTO is looking for.
Hand-drawing requires that the illustrator pays great attention to maintaining the proper dimensions and proportions described in the rest of the patent. Furthermore, the illustrator must produce images that provide the viewer with a clear perspective of the various components of the invention. Most patents contain only black and white drawings, however colored drawings “may also be submitted to the USPTO” so long as you “file three sets of the color illustrations with the USPTO, complete a petition explaining why color is necessary, pay a petition fee, and include a statement in your patent application that it contains color drawings.”
In addition to hand drawings, computer drawings generated from Computer-Aided Drawing (CAD) software are becoming increasingly common. CAD programs, such as SOLIDWORKS, allow the user to design a digital 3D model of their invention and produce precise drawings from the 3D model. The user can make changes to the format, the included dimensions, and views of the drawings, thereby offering a more realistic and accurate representation of the claimed invention. Furthermore, some programs allow the user to make accurate 3D drawings by scanning a real-life 3D object.
In summary, whether through good old pen and paper or through high-tech CAD software, including detailed and accurate drawings is an integral component of almost all patent applications.