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BTC1800H5: Patent Research Workshop

A guide to accompany the workshop in patent research fundamentals for MBiotech students

Anatomy of a Patent

Key Elements of a Patent

  • A patent document typically consists of four sections:
    • a front or cover page, that contains bibliographic information aka information about the patent
    • text, which describe the invention and which may also be termed the disclosure or the specification
    • claims, which define the scope of an invention and are the legal 'meat' of the patent
    • drawings, which are optional
  • Titles and abstracts can be misleading - sometimes intentionally so - or simply reflect wishful thinking
  • The order of inventors' names is not important
    • Typically, employees must assign their discoveries to their employers
  • Assignees are known outside of the US as applicants
  • References can be very useful for finding other related patents OR key literature on a topic
  • IPC codes are a combination of letters and numbers and are VERY useful in finding other relevant patents 
  • You may see one or more numbers on a patent document, including:
    • an application number (assigned upon filing), e.g. US 60/742,542, WO 2008/024129 A2
    • an publication number (number assigned to the application when published), e.g. US 2004/0231189 A1
      • Applications within PCT-member countries must be published within 18 months 
    • the (granted) patent number (if application granted),  e.g. US 6,993,858 B
  • Similarly, you may see multiple dates
    • ‚ÄčThe filing date, which is the date of filing
    • The priority date, which will often be the same as the date of filing but not always
      • The priority date is key for establishing novelty or usefulness of a patent
    • The patent issue date (the date the patent was granted)

Things to Remember

  • Term of patent is based on date patent application was filed, NOT the date the patent was granted or issued
  • There are no 'international' patents - only PCT applications!
  • PCT applications will begin with WO (for WIPO, the administrator of PCT); once granted by member countries, WO is replaced by country code, e.g. CA, US, JP, CH, DE
  • Patent 'family' = WO application + country-specific patents
  • Assignee information may not be current; if a patent has been purchased or reassigned, this may not be reflected in patent document but should be captured in patent prosecution activity (see Patent Resources for a resource that mauy help you track US patent reassignments)
    • However, patent licensing information may not be disclosed and is often challenging to research
  • Trade or 'everyday' product or service names rarely appear in their corresponding patent applications or patents
  • The claims of a patent outline the intellectual property being protected against infringement
    • Independent claims describe the invention in the broadest possible terms
    • Dependent claims are used to limit independent claims and are deployed typically to protect against potential infringement on other patent claims or assert the obvious/novel/useful character of the invention
  • Wording in claims matters
    • comprising ≠ consisting essentially of ≠ consisting of 
  • One drug or device almost always involves multiple patents, with staggered filing dates