Invention Tips

When it comes to Invention, we've been there, done that, now serving 346 tips in 14 categories ranging from Developing New Products to United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Can I submit photos and drawings to the US patent office?

Rules for Submitting Drawings and Photos to the US Patent Office

Just as there are rules regulating how written documentation is submitted in a US government patent office application, there are rules governing both drawings and photos as well. First, there are two ways to submit drawings: in black and white or in color ink. Color drawings should only be submitted if color is the only way to illustrate the subject matter, and they must be of sufficient quality that all details can be reproduced clearly in black and white.

Photographs can also be submitted but only if they, too are the only practical way to make your claim. Don't submit photos just because they make your product look good. This will not help your chances of obtaining a patent. Chemical or mathematical formulas can be submitted in drawing form if the above conditions apply. Any drawing submitted should contain as many views of the invention as are necessary to adequately make the claim.

You can also use detailed views of portions of your invention. When you scale your drawing, it must be large enough to show the item when it is reduced to two-thirds its actual size in reproduction. Make sure all lines in drawings will retain quality when reproduced. When numbering pages of drawings, use consecutive numerals beginning with 1 and do not place them in the margin.

After reading all these rules on photographs and drawings--and many more exist--it's easy to understand why many inventors get help with submitting an application to the US Patent and Trademark Office. You can also glean much information from the office's website, Give your patent application several reviews before you send it in to ensure you have followed every rule or your application can be significantly delayed.

What happened to all the historical patent models sent to the US patent office?

Two Fires that Devastated the US Patent Office

Just like many inventions, the US Patent and Trademark Office has gone through many changes and much growth. While the US patent office was initially established in 1836 under the Department of State, the office now falls under the Department of Commerce, and employs more than five thousand people. On December 15, 1836, a terrible fire in the office destroyed all its records and many of its patent models.

These days, inventors use sophisticated drawings as well as photos to prove and explain their claims. Previously, inventors submitted models as well and they are an important part of US patent history. About 3,000 of the models were restored but another fire ruined another 76,000 more. In 1880 the model submission was deemed impractical and later the remaining ones were placed in storage. Many of the models have been lost since then although some ended up in the Smithsonian. Thanks to a few investors and patent model enthusiasts, some models have been saved and put in museums. But, since so many were lost and sold at flea markets, don't be surprised if you come across one. And keep it if you do. It may be worth money.

What kind of presentation is acceptable for a US patent application?

Follow Patent Application Rules

One of the ways you can delay receiving an issued patent is by not taking the time to research the application rules of the US Patent and Trademark Office. Since the number of patents filed and managed each year is so vast, these rules help cut down on the typical bureaucracy that often accompanies such government applications. But, you should be prepared for some frustration in the filing of a patent anyway, and in corresponding with the office.

Here is what must be included in your patent application: a written document with a clear description of claims, an oath of declaration, a drawing or drawings if necessary, and all filing, search and applications fees (fees change each October). Your application must be in English and written only on one side of non-shiny, durable, white paper. Each document in the application packet must be of the same size and have at least a two-inch margin at the top and a left side margin of 2.5 inches. The pages must be consecutively numbered and have no holes punched in them. You should use either 1.5 spacing or double spacing. Refrain from creating any type of fancy presentation when filing a patent application; it will not affect the examiner's decision.

If you receive word from the US Patent and Trademark Office that your application is not correct, make sure you respond with the proper corrections in the time frame stated or you might have to start over. You will be informed of your patent application number and filing date via mail. If you submit drawings with your patent, make sure you check the specific rules for filing such documents with the US patent office at

How do I correspond with the US Patent and Trademark Office?

Corresponding with the US Patent and Trademark Office

When you first enter the world of invention patenting, you should expect some bureaucracy. The number of patents has now reached into the millions. The US Patent and Trademark Office, located in Alexandra, Va, is the best place to get updated and detailed information about how to apply for a patent.

If you follow the rules listed on its website carefully, you will save a tremendous amount of time that can elapse if your patent accidentally gets routed to the wrong place. You should address your patent correspondence to: Commissioner for Patents, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450. You should include your full address including zip code. If you personally deliver your patent application, it will not get processed differently or sooner so a trip just for this purpose is unnecessary. During the patent process, some mail stops for particular mailed items will be assigned. Make sure you place these mail stop addresses before 'Commissioner of Patents' on your correspondence.

If you send additional correspondence to the office it should include all of the following that applies: patentee, title of invention, application number, patent number, assigned filing date and date of issue. Any papers presented in violation of the rules of the US patent office will simply be denied. Before sending anything via mail to the US Patent and Trademark Office, check its website at for the most updated information.

What is a registered patent agent or attorney.

Find a USPTO Registered Attorney or Agent

One of the functions of the US Patent and Trademark Office is to govern the conduct and recognize those lawyers and patent agents who can practice before the USPTO. People who do not have the distinction of being registered before the office cannot represent inventors before it. To obtain such a registration, a person has to be of good moral character and a good reputation. He or she must also pass an examination. But, also critical, is the fact that these persons must prove they have the specific legal, scientific and technical qualities to properly enter the field of patent law.

If you choose to hire a patent lawyer or agent, you should make sure they are registered with the USPTO. They can then help you do an adequate patent search as well as write your patent application in such a way as to offer you the most protection for your invention. This is truly a unique and specific skill. If some information or description is missing, you may open yourself up to business or legal trouble, or your patent may simply be denied on the merits of the application. Registered patent attorneys and agents can prepare an application for a patent and conduct prosecution in the USPTO.

But agents cannot perform patent litigation, practice law or draw up a license if their state considers that practicing law. Remember, patent law is a complicated field of study; you can't just read a few books or search a few websites to grasp all the technicalities involved so hiring someone who proves they know the ins and outs of the US patent office will be money well spent.

How did the US Patent and Trademark Office get established?

The History of the US Patent Office

Even though the US Patent and Trademark Office has been delegated the job of issuing patents to new inventors and inventions, the idea of patenting was not a uniquely American one. The idea actually goes back to 1449 when King Henry VI awarded a patent for a unique way to manufacture stained glass. Without patents, countries would have little control over their economic destinies so, later in history, many of the US's 13 colonies has some form of patent law.

The principals were written directly into the US Constitution in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8. Still, at that time, no entity titled the US Patent and Trademark Office existed to manage the filing and granting of patents to new inventors. Additional patent acts were passed in 1790, 1793 and 1836, which provided the foundation for such a US patent office down the road.

During Reconstruction after the Civil War, there was a significant increase in the number of patents being filed and the need for efficiency was clear. It was the Patent Act of 1836 that established a patent office under the Department of State, which would ultimately lead to what is now known known as the US Patent and Trademark Office. This act also called for copies of patents to be distributed libraries around the country offering the general public easy access to them. In 1975, the US government patent office became the Patent and Trademark Office and is now one of about a dozen bureaus of the Department of Commerce.

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