You have the legal right to prepare your own patent application…the description, the claims, the drawings, the works. You also have the legal right to remove your own appendix. But are you any wiser to consider the former then the latter? While there may be no lay guides to self-extraction of the appendix, there are actually many guides (principally the “Rules of Practice of the United States Patent Office”) to extracting protection for your prized invention.

You probably should rely upon a patent attorney or agent for the specifications and upon a drafting pro for the drawings. You’d ignore that advice? You still insist on tackling your own drawings? Then you’d better pay heed to the advice that follows.

My patent attorney father taught me long ago that the biggest rocks on the path to success with your invention are the drafting rejections thrown there by the patent examiner.

The six most common examiner rejection comments – along with suggested cures – are:

1) The invention is not clearly delineated.

Make sure the drawing fully reveals your specific improvement, not its extraneous environment. Add cross-sectional, enlarged fragmentary and perspective views, if necessary, to reveal every aspect of your invention. In a design patent, depict the entire design by including the seven basic views: perspective, top and bottom plan, left and right sides, front and rear elevations.

2) Cross-hatching is objectionable.

Cross-hatching is to patent drafting what a label is to a dress buyer. You can’t be sure of what the material is without it. You can’t ‘invent” your own and you can’t use standard mechanical drafting convention. There’s a specific P.O. Convention for metal, plastic, glass — even colors — in the Rules of the Practice. Follow them and you will stay out of trouble.

3) Shading is poor or incorrect.

Shading, like cross-hatching, helps you see what’s there. It’s particularly important in a design application because you can only claim how your design looks, not how it functions. Is the surface flat, cylindrical, undulating? Only the way it is shaded provides the answer.

4) Lines are pale, rough or blurred.

Current Patent Office rules state a preference that photocopies, not original drawings, be submitted with your application. Therefore the originals must be crisply drawn or they won’t photocopy well. And of course, the copies should be printed on a good copier.

5) Numerals are too small or lead lines are incorrect

Numerals should not be smaller then 1/8 inch high. Lead lines must point precisely to the object or area to which their number refers. It’s all in the rules.

6) Proper margins required.

The proper sight area (the field outside of which no matter may be drawn) for a standard U.S. 8 ½ x 14 inch sheet is one-fourth of an inch from the sides and bottom and two inches from the top.

These few examiner objections don’t begin to cover the stumbling blocks you’ll face in preparing drawings. That’s why the better your drawings look, the likelier their mistakes are to be overlooked.

Let’s assume you’ve prepared a suitable set of mostly correct drawings in pencil. You’ve followed the proper conventions for shading, cross-hatching, line weights, etc. Now, I urge you, ink the penciled drawings “examiner friendly.” Why? The copies you submit will have been made from inked, not just penciled, originals. And it follows that they will be far crisper and easier to read. Examiners like that.

The overriding purpose of a patent application is a simple one: Reveal the invention! Don’t overlook the importance of Objection No. 1 above: The invention is not clearly delineated.

Broad claims covering total devices or methods are not often allowed. Claims on technical improvements seem to stand a better chance. So it must be stressed that, not only must the improvements be described in great detail, they also must be shown in the same great detail. If in doubt, show more, never less.

A picture may be worth a thousand words. But does that hold true in patent specifications? Is a well executed set of drawings more important then a well written disclosure? Is a perfectly drafted perspective view more valuable than a neatly turned claim? The answer is that they are both important. That holds true whether you prosecute your patent application yourself or have professionals handle both ends of the job.