How to write patent claims

Written by john gugie
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How to write patent claims
A person with an idea for an invention should seek a patent. (idea image by caironbohemio from

Patents are legal documents that protect inventions from others who might infringe upon the rights of the inventor by using his or her ideas for their own gain. Claims are the parts of a patent that define the technical scope and explain the aspects of the item in specific terms to avoid ambiguity.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • An invention
  • Paper or word processor software
  • Printer (optional)

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  1. 1

    Determine what type of patent claim is appropriate for the item being patented. A physical product or device is called a product or apparatus claim. A process or use is called a process, method or use claim. Multiple physical devices working together is called a system claim.

  2. 2

    Make a list of the most important and unique aspects of the item to claim exclusive rights to them.

  3. 3

    Determine if the claim is independent or dependent. Independent claims are stand-alone and do not depend on other claims. Dependent claims refer back to previous claims. Dependent claims allow for clarification of independent claims, backup claims in case the independent claim is denied and differentiation of different aspects of the item.

  4. 4

    Begin a new page separate from the rest of the patent application to state the claims. Before listing the claims, write a statement, such as "I claim:," to declare what is to follow.

  5. 5

    Number the claims chronologically from broad claims to narrow claims using Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3). Broader claims always need to be preceded by narrower claims so that scope shows the big picture first and breaks it down into its most basic components for each successive claim. Each claim needs to be either broad or narrow, but not both, to avoid conflicting claims. Using more claims allows more aspects of the item to be protected by the patent.

  6. 6

    Write the introductory phrase, which describes the category of the item being patented and sometimes its purpose. It begins with a capital letter. (Example: "A device for drinking liquid").

  7. 7

    Write the linking words, which are words such as "comprising" or "consisting of," that describe how or link the introductory phrase to the body of the claim. These words are important because they can restrict or widen the scope of the claim, creating very different meanings depending on the word choice. (Example: "consisting of").

  8. 8

    Write the body of the claim, which is the specific description of the item being patented. End it with a period. Separate each clause with semicolons. (Example: "A cylindrical plastic container with a funnelled bottom.")

  9. 9

    Separate each part of a multiple-step claim with a line indentation. Start the first introduction of a part of a claim with an "a" and start each follow-up of the same part with "the" to avoid confusion.

  10. 10

    Revise the claims extensively to find any errors or unnecessary claims. This is important because it's best to get everything correct the first time to avoid delays. The number of claims also determines the application fee.

Tips and warnings

  • Each claim can only be one sentence, as long or as short a sentence as necessary, even if it means that it's not completely grammatically correct or looks awkward.
  • Claims need to be written clearly to avoid being subjective, complete to encompass the entire item being patented and supported by the description of the item in the previous step of the patent application.
  • Claims are evaluated individually, so some of your claims might not be approved and others may be approved. This makes it a good idea to write as many claims as possible to avoid a complete rejection.
  • Basic patent filing allows 20 claims: three independent and 17 dependent.
  • It is a good idea to seek the opinion of a legally-licensed patent attorney before applying for a patent.

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