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Patent Guide: IV. Parts of your patent application

Your Patent Application will usually be broken down into the following parts:

Background: Describing what's out there, the problems with what's out there, and the need for something better. It's not a required section, but it gives us a chance to "sell" your concept to the Patent Office. Here's a short example from our Bingo patent:

Bingo is a game of chance played with randomly drawn numbers using Bingo balls. Players match numbers drawn to pre-printed 5"x5" matrices. The matrices may be printed on paper, card stock, or electrometrically represented and are referred to as cards . . .
As described above, the prior art Bingo game has remained essentially unmodified since the 1930s. It is a largely manual system which may have a fair amount of down time. Every time a person calls Bingo! a fact checker must run through the numbers drawn and the numbers on the card to check for a Bingo. Likewise, a person must physically pull out each ball as it's drawn and place it into a hopper, arranged by ball number, so that when the fact checking time comes, the ball's drawing can be verified.
What is needed in the art of Bingo games is a way to add more excitement to the game. What is further needed is a method of decreasing down time and providing faster action. Still further, there is a need for a method of increasing accuracy and decreasing the possibility of a game to be fixed or cheated.

Summary: In this section, we explain, in plain English language, what we're patenting. This is for the average reader, such as a jury in an infringement case. Here's an excerpted paragraph of the summary from our RFID Bingo Patent, again:

A plurality of balls, usable for a ball selector, is also described herein. Each ball of the plurality of balls comprises a generally spherical encasement with a hollow interior, human-readable indicia on said spherical encasement, and a radio frequency identification tag freely movable in it's housing within the hollow interior and adapted to transmit data corresponding to the human-readable indicia. The radio frequency identification tag, in embodiments of the disclosed technology, is freely movable within said hollow interior and drops to the gravitational bottom of the hollow interior when the ball is stationary.

Detailed Description: Here's where we get into the nitty gritty of the technical details. We'll give you one example paragraph from here too, and you'll see that as we get further into the patent application, the resemblance to English decreases:

More particularly, the radio module 40 further comprises a transmitter portion 40a, a receiver portion 40b, a hybrid 50, and an antenna 48. The hybrid 50 may further comprise a circulator. The transmitter portion 40a includes a local oscillator that generates an RF carrier frequency. The transmitter portion 40a sends a transmission signal modulated by the RF carrier frequency to the hybrid 50, which in turn passes the signal to the antenna 48. The antenna 48 broadcasts the modulated signal and captures signals radiated by the tag 15. The antenna 48 then passes the captured signals back to the hybrid 50, which forwards the signals to the receiver portion 40b. The receiver portion 40b mixes the captured signals with the RF carrier frequency generated by the local oscillator to directly down-convert the captured signals to a baseband information signal. The baseband information signal comprises two components in quadrature, referred to as the I (in phase with respect to the transmitted carrier) and the Q (quadrature, 90 degree out of phase with respect to the carrier) signals. The hybrid 50 connects the transmitter 40a and receiver 40b portions to the antenna 48 while isolating them from each other. In particular, the hybrid 50 allows the antenna 48 to send out a strong signal from the transmitter portion 40a while simultaneously receiving a weak backscattered signal reflected from the transponder 15.

Figures: See all those numbers in the 'detailed description' above? They relate to labels on the figures. The figures are black and white line art drawings, or in some cases, diagrams and flow charts, which show what we're talking about. They are required when claiming a device, but still are an extremely good idea and usually used when patenting a method. Here's part of Figure 1 from our Bingo Patent:

Claims: Finally, once we've disclosed everything we need to disclose, it all comes down to the claim language. That is, everything until now was just support for what we can claim. Drafting claims is partially an art and partially a science, with very particular rules which, while they seem esotericto most, actually make a lot of sense to patent attorneys. Here's claim 11 from our bingo patent, as an example:

11. A plurality of balls usable for a ball selector, each ball of said plurality of balls comprising:
a generally spherical encasement with a hollow interior;
human-readable indicia on said spherical encasement; and
a radio frequency identification tag freely movable within said hollow interior and adapted to transmit data corresponding to said human-readable indicia;

In English, this is claiming, in one example, a hollow Bingo ball with transmitter moving around inside, though if you go through the language, you'll see that we can read it more broadly than that. That is the name of the game - to obtain the broadest claims we can reasonable claim. As another example, take a look at claim 12:

12. The plurality of balls of claim 11, wherein said radio frequency identification tag is freely movable within said hollow interior and drops to the gravitational bottom of said hollow interior when said ball is stationary.

Notice that claim 12 refers back to claim 12? In order to infringe upon claim 12, one would have to carry out every limitation of claim 11, plus the limitation of claim 12 of a transmitter which drops to the bottom when the ball is stationary. The patent office allows 20 claims, so we generally use them if we can. This is so that if claim 11 doesn't pass through examination, or worse, litigation, claim 12 may still stand. This is referred to as a "dependent claim" and by putting these claims in, we are staking out narrower, but stronger territory. Think of the independent claim as the moat around your castle, the dependent claim as the wall of your castle, and a dependent claim which itself depends off a dependent claim as your archers.

Now that we've finished showing you what goes into a patent, let's look at what happens after we file your patent application. First stop, V. Information Disclosure Statements.

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