Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What's the Deal? The Basics of Reading a Patent

If you have an invention that is useful novel and not real obvious, the United States Government wants to make a deal.   And that's the secret to reading a patent.     Because underneath all the details, cross-references, incorporations, and legalese is a deal.  

We all know the deal:  share with the government how to make and use your invention and the government will grant you an exclusive right to use your invention for 20 years.   Fortunately, it is not quite that simple.  The United States Patent and Trademark Office issues approximately 5000 patents a week and to do that efficiently, a patent application has to meet specific requirements.  And three of these requirements, Drawings, Enablement, and Claims are the key to reading a patent.

Always make the drawings your first stop.  They show you exactly what the invention is and many times that is enough for your purpose.  If the drawings are confusing, go to the Brief Description of the Drawings section to get your bearings.

Enablement is the term the USPTO uses for the description of how to make and use the invention.  This information will be in the Summary and Detailed Description sections.  The Summary will describe the purpose and operation of the invention.  The Detailed Description is where the nuts and bolts (often literally) of the invention will be.  The trick to reading these sections is to read for the concept instead of the details.  While the details and legalese are important, they are intended for judges, not people.   Once you learn to filter out the details, often in the form of lists, you will find concepts come through quickly.  Even if you want to know the details, read for the concept first.  The details are easier to digest in the second reading.  If you are having trouble finding the concept, scan the Background section.  This will often provide the missing context that helps make sense of things.

Finally, every patent has to include a least one claim. A claim is a specific statement of the circumstances that would infringe on the patent.     This is where inventors tip their hand.   Because an applicant pays for each claim, they will try to limit costs by focusing on what they believe are the important aspects of their invention.  That tells you what makes the invention unique.


Below is a summary of selected patents that have been recently issued in textile related classification codes:

Impact Shock Absorbing Material:  A lightweight flexible and shock absorbent material made of a shear thickening material that becomes rigid on impact diffusing the impact energy over a broad area.  The potential uses include helmets, sports gears and headbands.  Testing shows that Peak Resultant Head Deceleration in standing falls and bed falls was 63% of similar unprotected falls.   Patent #:  8510863.  Inventor:  Ferguson.  No assignee.

Golf Gloves:  Golf gloves equipped with a dial that allows silent adjustment of the glove.  Patent #:  8510866.  Inventor: Mizumoto.  No assignee.

Shirt Having a Form Fitting Midsection:  A shirt with panels incorporated to provide a slimming effect for the wearer.  In one implementation, the shirt is form fitting with lateral panels designed to minimize “love handles.”  In a second implementation, the shirt has an inner and outer shell where the inner shell provides a greater degree of minimization which is hidden from view by the outer shell.  Patent #:8516614.  Inventor:  Karasina.  No assignee.

Duty Belt System.  A system for improved weight distribution on a duty belt and reliably fastening the belt to the wearer so it does not detach inadvertently.  Patent #:  8510868.  Inventors:  Mongan, et. al.  No assignee.

Holographic Patterned Heat Management Material:  Material made with holographic patterns that can be designed and customized to conduct heat away from the body or reflect heat towards the body depending on the garment’s intended use.  Primarily intended for sportswear and sporting goods.  Patent #: 8510871.  Inventors:  Blackford and Mergy.  Assignee:  Columbia Sportswear North America Inc.

Hydroengorged Spunmelt Nonwovens:  A method of making spunmelt nonwoven material.  Compared to standard methods, this method decreases bond fusion area to less than 10%, increases thickness by 50% and maintains 75% of the original tensile strength.  Patent #:  8510922.  Inventors:  Turi and Kauschke.  Assignee:  First Quality Nonwovens, Inc.

Dual Zipper Boot Construction Method and System:  The primary zipper secures the boot while the second zipper customizes the fit and reduces the stress on the boot stitching.  Patent #: 8510972.  Inventor:  Bizzo.  Assignee:  Aerogroup International Holdings, LLC.

Foldable Footwear:  A shoe with modifications to the insole and outsole to allow the shoe to be folded into a “U” shape for easy packing.  Patent #:  8510975.  Inventor:  Krikelis.  No assignee.

Synthetic Rope Formed of Blend Fibers:  A series of rope designs using two different types of yarns or fibers to optimize cost and various performance levels.  Patent #: 8511053.  Inventors:  Chou, et. al.  Assignee:  Samson Rope Technologies, Inc.

Method of Assembling Filaments and Bundle of Filaments Obtained by the Method:  Technology for making sheathing for fiber optic cables.  The invention applies pretension to the filaments feeding to the sheath winding process.  This prevents twisting and reduces weight variation per length of filament bundle.  Patent #: 8511054.  Inventors:  Lee, et. al.  Assignee:  Kolon Industries, Inc.

Tubular Structure and Method for Making the Same:  A method of braiding a wave pattern into the surface of a tube.  This improves radial strength, collapse and kink resistance along with other physical parameters of the product.  Patent #:  8511214.  Inventor: Gries.  Assignee:  AGA Medical Corporation.


Jim Carson is a principal of RB Consulting, Inc. and a registered patent agent.  He has over 30 years of experience across multiple industries including the biotechnology, textile, computer, telecommunications, and energy sectors.  RB Consulting, Inc. specializes in providing regulatory, management and prototyping services to small and start-up businesses.  He can be reached via email at or by phone at (803) 792-2183.

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