Patent Abstracts, Common Problems With Them, And Tips For Drafting A Better Abstract

September 28, 2009

in Patent Drafting Strategies,The MPEP,Useful Information

Introduction

USPTO rules require that every non-provisional patent application include an Abstract.  This Abstract is a concise summary of the invention disclosed in the application.  This summary enables the Office (and the public) to quickly determine the nature of the disclosed subject matter.

Although only a summary, it is prudent to draft an Abstract with care. The Abstract is a part of a written disclosure of the application and Federal Courts may properly rely on an Abstract to construe claims.  For this reason, it is beneficial to draft an Abstract at least as broadly as the broadest independent claim.

The many requirements for a patent Abstract are set forth in 37 CFR 1.72(b) and MPEP § 608.01(b). These respective sections of the Rules and the Manual of Patent Examination Procedure should be an Applicant’s primary resources.  The USPTO may properly object to any Abstract that does not satisfy all of the requirements and may require correction by the applicant.  The following are the five most common reasons the Office will object to an Abstract:

1.  The Abstract is not on a separate sheet
A proper Abstract commences on a separate sheet that does not include either other parts of the application or any other material.  Preferably, an Abstract is presented after the claims, which preferably follow the Specification.

2.  The Abstract is too long/too short
A proper Abstract is between 50 and 150 words and does not exceed 15 lines of text.

3.  The Abstract includes improper language
A proper Abstract avoids the legal phraseology commonly found in patent claims, such as “means” and “said.”  Instead, the language used should encompass that which is new and be clear and concise.  Thus, a proper Abstract also avoids phrases that can be implied, such as, “The disclosure concerns,” “The disclosure defined by this invention,” “The disclosure describes,” etc.

Remember – the content of an Abstract should enable a reader, regardless of his or her degree of familiarity with patents, to determine quickly whether there is a need to consult the full patent text.

4.  The Abstract is non-narrative/non-descriptive
A proper Abstract neither discusses purported merits or speculative applications of a disclosed invention nor does it compare the invention with prior art. Rather, a proper Abstract efficiently describes the disclosed subject matter and encompasses what is believed to be novel. Accordingly, extensive mechanical and design details of an apparatus should not be included.

5.  The Abstract is more than one paragraph
A proper Abstract is a single paragraph within the range of 50 to 150 words.

Abstract Drafting Suggestions

1.  An Abstract is part of the written disclosure of an application and can be used to construe (and likely limit) the claims in future litigation.  So, when drafting this portion of an application always keep in mind Miranda – “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

2.  A common drafting strategy is to incorporate the language of the broadest independent claim, without the “patentese” (pure claim terminology).  This strategy tends to produce an Abstract that is both adequately broad and that avoids characterizations of the invention.  Moreover, this strategy is efficient because it leverages the care and effort used to draft the independent claim on which the Abstract is based.

3.  When an invention is of a basic nature, the Abstract may be directed to the entire disclosure.

4.  When an invention is an improvement of an old apparatus, process, product, or composition, the Abstract preferably focuses on the improvement.

5.  When an invention is in the nature of compounds and compositions, the abstract preferably sets forth both a process for making and a use of the compound or composition.

6.  Where applicable, an Abstract should include the following:

(1) if the invention is a machine or apparatus, its organization and operation;
(2) if the invention is an article of manufacture, its method of making;
(3) if the invention is a chemical compound, its identity (i.e., the general nature of the compound, e.g., “The compounds are of the class of alkyl benzene sulfonyl ureas”) and use;
(4) if the invention is a mixture, its ingredients; and
(5) if the invention is a process, its operations or steps.

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© 2009, Michael E. Kondoudis

The Law Office of Michael E. Kondoudis
DC Patent Attorney
www.mekiplaw.com

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