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Text Box: Patent Layout

Have you ever wondered what you were looking at when you reviewed a patent?  Below are marked-up pages of U.S. Patent No. 5,396,965 with explanations.



1. Patent Number – The patent number is assigned when the patent is granted.

 2. Date of Patent – The date of the patent is the date that the patent was issued, not the date that the patent application was filed.  Before 1995, a patent term was 17 years from the date of the patent.  In 1995, the law changed so that the patent term was 20 years from the filing date (#7).

 3. First Named Inventor – Most patents refer to the first named inventor.  The first named inventor does not have any more rights to the patent than the other inventors.  According to law they all have an equal share regardless of how much they contributed to the invention.

 4. Title – The title of the patent describes the subject matter in the patent.

 5. Assignee – The assignee is the owner of the patent.  According to U.S. patent law, the inventors are the initial owners of the patent, but their rights can be assigned to another.  Companies will usually require their employees to assign the rights of any future inventions to the company that are  reasonably related to the employee's job. 

 6. Application Number – When a patent application is filed, the patent office assigns a serial number to the application.

 7. Filing Date – This is the date that the patent application was filed.  The filing date is usually also the priority date.  During examination, the patent examiner cannot use any reference that discloses similar technology to the claimed invention after the filing date.  

 8. Search Fields – The patent office uses a classification system to categorize technologies.  The examiner will typically search U.S. classes and international classes related to the invention. 

 9. Cited References – Anyone involved in the preparation of a patent application is required to provide references that may affect the patentability of the invention.  Both patent and non-patent references are listed.  Typically, foreign patents and U.S. patent publications are also included in the cited references. 

 10. Credits – The patent examiner and the patent attorney/firm may be listed on the granted patent to credit them for their work.

 11. Abstract – An abstract is designed to help the readers quickly determine the subject matter of the patent.

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 1. Patent Number – The patent number appears on every page.

 2. Date of Patent – The grant date usually appears on all of the pages containing figures.

 14. Drawing Sheets – Identifies the number of pages with drawings. 

 15. Reference Number – The reference numbers identify important features disclosed in the figures.  The text will generally refer to the reference numbers when describing the drawing's contents. 

 16. Figure Number – Each figure is assigned a number.

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 1. Patent Number – The patent number is listed at the top of the pages containing text.

 2. Title – The invention's title is included at the beginning of the text.

 17. Column – Each column is numbered for the reader’s convenience. 

18. Background of the invention – The background describes the state of the technology before the invention.  Related patents and other references are usually disclosed here.

 19. Summary of the invention – The summary is usually a brief, concise description of the invention that does not refer to the drawings.

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 20. Brief description of the drawings – The brief description of the drawings helps the reader determine the contents of the figures without referring to the invention's detailed description.

 21. Detailed description – This section typically refers to the figures and includes a detailed description of the invention with enough information that one of ordinary skill in the related technology can make and use the invention.

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 22. Claims – The claims describe subject matter of the invention.  A patent owner only has rights to prevent others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, importing, and/or exporting what is claimed.  Subject matter disclosed in the figures and text are not protected unless that subject matter is also claimed.

 23. Independent claim – An independent claim usually states the invention as broadly as possible.

 24. Dependent claim – A dependent claim includes all of the limitations of the independent claim plus the limitations stated in the dependent claim..

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 25. End of patent – The end of the patent is usually marked with this symbol. 

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