Understanding Patent Claims


Patent Claims, when said in simple words, define your invention. They also describe the scope of the patent protection which you are applying for. This, in turn, makes it necessary to carefully draft your patent claims. 

Likewise, the scope of many prior-art searches, including the validity search is determined by the selected claims of an issued patent, in target.

The subject features of a validity search are the representation of an invention as claimed in the granted patent.

Thus, the most important consideration during a validity search is claim interpretation.

Types of Patent Claims

Patent claims are basically of two kinds.

  • Firstly, Independent Claims.
  • Secondly, Dependent Claims.

Independent claims

These are those that do not refer to another preceding claim.

Dependent claims

Dependent claims include, by reference, each and every limitation of each of the claims from which they depend.

Many patents include long chains or series of dependent claims. Each of these referring to and having the limitations of a preceding claim.

Each dependent claim is narrower (i.e., more limited in scope) than the claim on which it depends.

Essentially, patent claims are composed of limitations. They also include phrases that identify and describe, or limit, the various components (or steps, in the case of a method or process claim) of the claimed invention.

The various words and phrases that appear in the patent claims are interpreted according to their normal or usual meaning. The patent attorney, most likely, may have created or coined new words or phrases  if no such accepted definition exists. And/or they may have used words or phrases in an unusual manner (as some of the patent offices allow the patent applicant to create and define the meanings of the words used in his/her application on their own).

In addition to that, the patent specification, in some cases, is used as a guide to claim interpretation.

The record of the prosecution of the patent application should be studied to find meaning of the concerned terms if no clear definition is provided in the patent specification. This record is also known as the file wrapper and is obtained from the Patent Office. 

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