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What is a Patent Abstract?

An abstract summarizing the invention is one of the main required elements of a patent application. In about 150 words, the abstract concisely describes the invention. Since the abstract is limited in its length, it should not include precise technical details about the invention. Instead, the abstract should give the reader a small teaser drawing them to read further into the application and eventually grant a patent.

Patent Abstract Requirements

The patent abstract should give a brief overview of the invention without going into too much detail. Essentially, the abstract should explain what the invention is and how it works. In case the relevant patent is an improvement or change to an existing patent, the abstract should describe the improvement. 

The abstract should be placed on a separate sheet after the claims section of the application under the title "Abstract" or "Abstract of the Disclosure." According to the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the abstract should include:

  • Its organization and operation, if a machine or apparatus
  • Its method of making, if an article
  • Its identity and use as well as the general nature of the compound, if a chemical compound
  • Its ingredients, if a mixture
  • The steps, if a process

The abstract is strictly limited to a maximum of 250 words and should not exceed 15 lines of text. Make sure your summary fits into this limited space by omitting implied phrases and words.

In the abstract, it is important to use clear, concise language that can be understood by anyone with a basic understanding of patents. A reader should be able to understand the invention from the abstract alone without relying on references or other elements.

Several details and terms should be avoided in the abstract. All of the specifics can be found in the USPTO's Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, but you should generally omit terms and phrases such as:

  • “This disclosure concerns”
  • “The disclosure defined by this invention”
  • “This disclosure describes”
  • “means”
  • “Said”
  • Any merits or advantages of the invention
  • Any comparisons to prior inventions

Approval and Rejection of Patent Abstracts

The USPTO is responsible for approving and rejecting patent abstracts and applications. According to a Yale study, nonprovisional utility patent applications have a 90% chance of at least one rejection, so it is safe to say that rejections happen quite often. Before submitting an abstract as part of your application, make sure it is complete and accurate, as leaving out important details or completing it incorrectly can result in rejection, which can lead to significant delays in the patent application process. 

Bottom Line

Abstracts are one of the most important elements of a patent application. They are crucial to helping the USPTO understand the true nature of your invention. However, as a result of their strict requirements, patent applications are often rejected due to issues with the abstract. With the help of an intellectual property lawyer, you can ensure that your patent application is filed correctly so that you can begin receiving patent protection as soon as possible.

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