What are Patent Claims?

A Complete Specification of a patent is a necessary document to obtain a patent protection. It contains the description of the inventive process or product. It also contains the set of ‘Claims’, which sets the scope of protection for the whole invention.

A patent application contains a various section that plays a vital role in obtaining protection for the inventive process or product. Complete Specification Patent can be said to be a techno-legal document, which specifies the scientific background of the invention, and also defines the Claims of the inventor to the Patent rights.

Understanding Patent Claims

The patent claim usually contains technical and scientific facts that define the scope of protection for the invention. They are usually framed in a comprehensive way, which includes the complete explanation of the technical aspects of the invention.

The Right to exclusive use of the invention and the Scope of Protection for the invention are defined in the Claims filed by the applicant with the Controller of Trademark and Patents.

Simply put, the Patent Claims lays down what patent does and does not protect.

Types of Patent Claims

Claims under the Indian patent law have been classified on the basis of drafting, inventiveness, and structure.

On the Basis of Patent Drafting

  • Original Claims

Original or independent claims are also commonly known as "Principle claims". They need to clearly define the essential features of the novel invention. The inventive processes or products need to be properly defined with respect to the ‘prior art’ as well.

There can be multiple independent claims for an invention and are broader in their scope of protection.

  • Dependent Claims

Dependent claims are supported by independent claims. The claims can depend on one or more independent claims listed in the specification.

On the Basis of Type of Invention

  • Product Claims

Claims that are directed for the protection of product itself are considered product claims under the Indian Patent law.

For instance, new pharmaceutical products are protected through the submission of these claims. The inventor will need to submit the chemical composition of the product which he seeks to protect.

Example: A mold involved in shaping molten steel.

  • 'Product by Process' Claim

This claim usually involves claiming protection for a product but through the process involved in developing the product.

  • Process Claims

Such claims are filed for a new and innovative process, which has a specific end result. It is to be understood that the end result will not receive protection, only the process would.

On the Basis of Structure

  • 'Composition of Matter' Claims

They are the most significant and commonly used claims by patent applicants. They are broadly applicable as they cover any use of the composition of matter involved in the process.

The inventor can claim protection under these claims if the applicant or the inventor finds that the invention differs in the ‘prior art search’.

  • 'Means plus Function' Claim

These claims are mostly used for any computer-related invention as they are not considered conventional patent claims. These claims have to define the scope of the invention. The terms used in the claim must be definitive and must be supported by the description of the specification.

Importance of Patent Claims

  • Claims are used for the protection of products, process, or for any apparatus.
  • Anything not listed in the claims automatically falls into the public domain even if the matter of the claim was listed in the patent specification.
  • Claims define the limit of the legal protection sought by the inventor or the applicant.
  • The claims in the specification let the other people using the invention know when they are infringing upon the inventors right over the use of the invention.

Parts of Patent Claims

The Preamble

The preamble helps in identifying the category of the invention. The preamble of the invention must be listed in such a way that it conforms to the title of the invention. The preamble is used in the very first claim of the invention.

Transitional Phrase

Transitional phrase determines whether the claims are limited only to the elements listed or whether they cover the other additional elements.

There are two types of transitional phrases available:

  • Open Ended: No additional elements, methods or unaccredited elements are excluded under them. Under open-ended phrases, the most common phrase used by the applications is the word - 'comprising'
  • Closed phrases: Close-ended phrases do not include any elements or method that is not recited in the claims listed.

The Body

The body of the claim is followed immediately after the transitional phrase. The body should contain an explanation regarding the different elements included in the specification. The body should also contain the limitations of the claim.

How to Write Patent Claims?

Claims define the scope of protection. While drafting the claims, it’s important that the inventor ensures that the claims seek neither more protection nor less than what the inventor intends

While drafting the claims, the applicant or the patent agent must keep the following general principle in mind:

  1. The claims should be single sentenced and clearly structured.
  2. The claims should not involve any unnecessary repetition and should be concise.
  3. The technical facts listed in the claims should be presented in legal terms so that the scope of the invention can be obtained.
  4. What is not mentioned in the claims does not receive monopoly rights.
  5. Claims are to be followed right after the description of the invention with the title "Statement of Claims".
  6. Claims listed cannot surpass what the inventor has not even invented. Such broad claims may encroach upon the subject matter of another inventor.

Inventors Need to Examine Caution

  • Indian law does not provide any kind of restriction for a number of claims, but if the number of claims exceeds 10, the applicant will be charged additional fees.
  • Claims listed in the specification must be supported by the description. This means that the claims must be explained in the description so that they can be inferred.
  • Claims that are not specific in nature, or are jumble-up in their scope should not be listed in the claims. This means that the claims must be clear – there can be no room for speculation or assumption by the examiner or the general public.

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