Parts of a Patent Application – Claims, Drawings, Specification

06.04.2017 |

Episode #4 of the course Patent basics: for inventors and decision-makers by Clint R. Morin


In the previous lesson, I provided you with an overview of the patent process. Now, we will discuss what a patent application and issued patent looks like! This will help you make sense of an application drafted by your attorney or someone else.

A patent application is a document that defines and describes your invention and is divided into three main parts: claims, drawings, and specification. Because these parts of the patent application will largely define what your patent rights end up being, it is important to have a basic understanding of them!



The claims are the part of the patent application that define what you are claiming ownership to. These are formulaic text descriptions that can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to write. But the basic idea is that they are a list of details that must be present. When something has everything that a claim includes, we say your claim “reads on” it. You will have a numbered list of many claims, each of which define the invention. The claims are very important because the claims in an issued patent define what you can keep others from doing!



Patent drawings are usually black and white line drawings that illustrate what your invention is and how it works. If you have invented a new mechanical device, the drawings may show an example of what that device looks like and the parts that make up the device. If you have invented a new method or process, the drawings may include a flow chart illustrating the method or process.



The specification is a detailed description of your invention and can be quite long. It refers to your drawings and describes your invention in enough detail that someone working in the same or similar technology area could make and use it. It also proves you know how to make and use it, even if you have not yet made a working prototype. Because of this, you will often have very specific technical information within your specification.


How They Work Together

The different parts of the patent application come together to describe what your invention is and, if allowed as a patent, define what others cannot make, use, or sell. You can think of the claims as the definition of your invention and the drawings and specification as an explanation of the claims or an example implementation of the claims. The specification and drawings also provide ammunition to clarify your claims and convince a patent examiner that your application is worthy of a patent.



A patent application is both a technical document and a legal document. By working closely with an attorney and discussing what the different parts of your patent application mean, you can make sure that it is accurately protecting your invention.

An issued patent will also have all these different parts (along with other details) because your patent application gets published as part of the patent. You should now be able to review a patent application or patent and get a general idea of what it is trying to protect!

In the next lesson, we will discuss some of the main hurdles your application will need to clear in order for you to get a patent!


Recommended Activity

Go to Google Patents and search for some technology or product that interests you. Browse your results and download a couple of patents or patent applications for skimming and reading.


Recommended book

“Patents and How to Get One: A Practical Handbook” by U.S. Department of Commerce


Notice: This course and its lessons are not, nor are they intended to be, legal or other professional advice. Please seek the advice of a competent attorney or professional for your specific situation.


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