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Patents: Reading Patents

How to Read a Patent

NOT SHOWN: Continuation of Classifications and References Cited, Drawings, Background, Summary, Description of the Drawings, Detailed Description, Claims

Code  Descriptions

(10)  Document number:

  • The prefix US indicates that this is a U.S. patent.
  • The B2 code indicates that this patent has a previously published application.

(12) Document type

  • Patent

(21) Application number
(22) Date of application

  • When the patent application was filed

(45) Date of patent 

  • Date the patent was granted (this patent took almost a year to process)

(51) International classification
(52) U.S. classification
(54) Title of the invention
(56) References:

  • Publications cited as related prior art by the inventor and patent examiner.

(57) Abstract

  • A brief, non-technical description of the invention.

(58) Field of search:

  • Classifications consulted by the patent examiner during the prior art search.

(60) Number and date of provisional application
(65) Number and date of previously published application
(71) Applicant:

  • The person, company or organization that filed the application

(72) Inventors
(73) Assignee:

  • Owner at the time the patent issued. The assignee can be a person, company or organization.


Drawings - illustrations of the invention; " The drawings will usually indicate the essential features of the invention using reference numbers."

Background - this section can be very helpful to students because it is usually written without legal or technical jargon and helps to explain what is know about the technical field at the time of filing. Note: Patents can take upwards of 3+ years from the time the patent is filed to a granted patent.  Note 2: Not all patent applications become granted patents.

Summary - "This section should summarize the invention and explain how the invention solves the problem(s) identified in the background."

Detailed Description "The purpose of the detailed description is to describe the invention in sufficient detail to enable a skilled person to perform the method and/or produce the product disclosed in the patent. Therefore, depending on the invention, this section will contain details about the best method for using and/or manufacturing the invention and may include information about the materials from which the invention can be constructed, the relative amounts of different components of an invention, and so on. This section may also define certain terms used elsewhere in the patent."

Claims - are the most important part of the patent - they define the legal scope of the invention; all patents must include at least one claim but most contain many claims.