Tips on How to Read a Patent

There are many situations where knowing how to read a patent quickly and efficiently can come in handy. It is especially useful if you are researching other patents to check the originality of your idea and invention.

When reading a patent, you can start by skipping the title, because this is usually very general and it can be whatever the author wants it to be. You can also skip the drawings as they are often difficult to read and do not have a direct effect on the patent’s enforceability. There are some exceptions to this, of course.

Skipping the abstract is also recommended, because patent abstracts tend to be unfocused and even misleading. You can even skip reading the specification because it mostly contains background information or general information on the field.

The really important segment to read is the independent claims, because these are legally enforceable. They can still be difficult to read through, but they are at least required to be only one sentence long.

Reading the front page of a typical patent is relatively straightforward. The sections are identified by the patent number code which can be seen in parenthesis ahead of each section. These numbers are known as “INID Codes”, and they are universally printed on patents worldwide.

This allows you to identify the various patent sections regardless of whether you even speak the language that the patent is published in.

At the top of the front page you will find the type of patent and the inventor’s last name. The patent number on a utility patent will not have a letter prefix, while other patent documents will have letter prefixes such as AI, B, D, H, or NP to indicate the type of document.

The date of the patent, the title, a list of the inventors and assignees, if applicable, will follow.