What is Patent Claim?

A patent application is the most important techno-legal document that provides exclusive rights to an inventor to produce and sell his developed material. It is the first step in the conversion of an invention into intellectual property. The patent application includes details of the inventor, priority date, patent application number, drawings, specification, etc. The drawing, specification, and claims are the most important sections.

What is a claim in a patent?

Patent claims are the most important part of any patent application that defines the invention and protects the scope of the patent by creating invisible boundaries surrounding the precious invention. It is a salient sector that needs to be drafted very carefully to protect the invention from infringers. It is always recommended to consult a patent attorney for drafting the claims. Because of its importance in claiming exclusivity, it could be highly risky to write the claims on your own that could either be too broad or narrow in scope. 

What are the types of Patent Claims?

Under the Indian patent law, claims have been ordered based on drafting, innovativeness, and construction.

1. Based on invention 

  • Product Claims
  • Process Claims

2. Based on Drafting 

  • Independent claims
  • Dependent claims 
  • Multiple dependent claims
  • Omnibus claims

3. Based on the field

  • Markush claims
  • Jepson claims
  • Swiss type claims

4. Based on the structure

  • Means plus function claims
  • Composition claims 

How to write a patent claim? 

In a patent application, the set of claims can be varied from a single to multiple claims depending upon the scope of the inventions. These claims can describe the invention with a broader or narrower approach that solely depends on the requirements of the potential possibilities. Claims usually define the boundaries of the invention, and therefore, it limits the scope in terms of a narrow and broader approach. It basically decides the validity of the invention, which means if the claims of an invention cover a broader scope, then the invention will be declared invalid. And therefore, the construction of the claims is the most important part of the patent application and must be done carefully. 

Formatting rules for patent claims:

Construction of the claims includes a skeleton and a few formats for drafting patent application claims. A few patent formats are explained below:

1. Skeleton of the claims:

The skeleton or structure of any patent includes three main parts: the preamble, the transitional phrase, and the body of the claims. 

a) The Preamble

The very first line of the claims starts with the preamble, which is also in accordance with the title of the invention. It is also known as an independent claim that mostly recites an invention's subject matter. It usually categorizes the invention by its identity as a device or apparatus, process, or composition.

b) The transitional phrase

It is a connecting phrase that broadens the scope of the claims for all the elements that may or may not be used in the patent and assists in considering the boundaries of the claims. These connecting or transitional phrases that include 'comprising', ' including', ' containing', and 'characterized by' are also known as open-ended phrases that help in broadening the scope.

c) Body of the claim

The body of the claims is the embodiment of the invention that defines the scope of the invention. It is mostly used to declare all the components of the claims and its limitation in the independent claims. Also, it defines the relationship between all the elements of the claims that further helps to narrow down the scope in the dependent claims. For example:- 

A chemical composition comprising:

  • 10% of A compound;
  • 45% of B compound; and
  • 45% of C compound

2. Two-part claims

Also known as improvement claims or Jepson claims are the claims which usually contain prior art in the preamble and the invention in the body of the claims. It is basically used for the designation of the subject matter in the claims. For example:- 

A vegetable holder steamer, wherein the improvement comprises an automated temperature regulator attached to the steamer.

3. Means-plus-function claims

These claims are drafted for a functional element rather than the material properties of the element, although the materialistic property of the element is termed as means that must be included in the specifications of the patent application. Therefore, means plus function claims are dependent on the specification section of the patents that supports the element as means. For example:- 

  • An apparatus of steaming vegetable, comprising: 

    1. a means for holding vegetables, and 
    2. A steamer configured to steam the vegetables- holding means.

4. Claim punctuation

Patent agents engage themselves more in drafting claims as it is the most important section of the patent. However, despite well-drafted claims, no patent office will ever grant a patent application anywhere in the world if the claims are not properly punctuated. These punctuation rules for the claims are as follows:

  • A comma(,) will always separate the preamble from the transitional phase;
  • A colon(:) will always separate the transitional phrase from the body of the claims;
  • Different elements of the claims and penultimate will end with the semi-colons(;);
  • The last sentence will always end with a full stop (.) 

5. Proper antecedent basis 

The subject matter introduced in the claims must have a proper antecedent basis throughout the claims structure. This includes 'a', 'an', and 'the' articles that must be used before the elements of the claims. 

6. Reference numeral and bracket expressions

In some cases, reference numerals are used when drawing represents a subject matter and is needed to deliver the claims. For example, considering a drawing containing a device diagram and one of its units are labeled as "132" in the diagram. Thereafter, in the claims, if the same unit is needed to be declared, then the same unit or element will be followed by the referral number in parentheses. 

How vital are patent claims?

Patent claims are the backbones of the skeleton of the patent application specification. It defines the limitation to the infringers who might use, sell, or import the invention. By setting an invisible barrier between the invention and the infringers, claims protect the scope of the invention. Carefully drafted claims help in providing exclusive rights on the invention. The exclusive rights gained from the claims help in providing exclusive rights on the invention. The exclusive rights gained from the claims bar the infringers from using, selling, or importing the developed invention. 

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