Attorney at Law

The Basics of Patent Drawings

Lia Kopin-Green
November 10, 2022
Last reviewed by
Boruch Burnham, Esq.
May 28, 2023

Patents are legal instruments that give the holder exclusive intellectual property rights over a specific invention or creation. In exchange for complete disclosure of an invention, patents provide the inventor or creator of a product or service with exclusive rights to its unique process, design, or system. Patents are a useful tool used to promote innovation and prevent infringement of intellectual property.

In order to obtain patent protection in the U.S., the inventor must submit an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). One of the most essential elements in the application are known as patent drawings. This simple guide will provide you with some basic information you should be aware of regarding patent drawings, including their rules and guidelines, limitations, and how to create them.

What is a patent drawing?

When you apply for a patent, drawings are usually one of the most important parts of the application. Patent drawings are defined as a set of illustrations showing the detailed features of an invention or creation. The USPTO requires patent drawings when they are deemed necessary for a comprehensive understanding of the invention. However, if the invention can be adequately conveyed and fully grasped through detailed written descriptions alone, the inclusion of patent drawings is optional.

Importance of Patent Drawings

Patent applications should include sufficient information so that the examiner can truly understand the invention's components and their functions. A patent examiner who fully grasps the function and purpose of the invention is in a better position to decide whether the invention is patentable. As a result, the USPTO is more likely to reject patent applications that lack specific details. This is mainly due to the fact that an invention must be original and new in order for it to be patentable, and explicit and detailed characterization distinguishes the invention from others.

As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This is why patent drawings are an excellent way to promote novelty in patent applications; the drawings allow the applicant to depict various details about an invention that may be difficult to describe in words. As mentioned above, if an invention can be fully understood without drawings, an applicant has the option to include them, but it is not required to do so. 

Patent Drawing Rules and Guidelines 

There are a number of guidelines set by the USPTO that should be followed while making patent drawings. For more details about these rules, check out the USPTO website or consult with an attorney with experience in patent law. The following is a brief guide to some of patent drawings’ most basic formatting rules:

  • The drawing must use blank ink only. Color is only allowed when necessary to describe the invention and with exclusive permission from the USPTO.
  • Photographs are generally not allowed unless they are the only practical method of displaying an invention. For example, the components of a certain toothpaste formula may be difficult to depict in a drawing, so a photograph may be more suitable in that case.
  • Only white, matte paper is allowed and writing is allowed on only one side of the paper.
  • Drawings should be in upright form (instead of horizontal landscape drawings).
  • To reference characters in a drawing, numbers are preferred to letters. If letters are used, the English alphabet must be used.
  • The drawings may contain as many views as necessary to properly show the elements of the invention, so blown-up partial views of the invention are allowed.

Hiring a Professional Artist vs. Drawing it Yourself

When it comes to creating your patent drawings, you are left with two options: you can either hire a professional artist or draftsperson to make the drawings for you, or you can do it yourself. Both of these options come with their own advantages and disadvantages.

The costs of hiring a professional patent drawing artist can vary, but it will typically cost anywhere between $75 and $150 per sheet. Most applicants have at least two sheets of drawings, but if your invention is especially complex, you may require up to 6 or 7 drawings. As a result, working with a draftsperson can be relatively pricey. Nonetheless, it comes with several benefits. For instance, if you do not consider yourself artistically proficient, it may be best to hand the job over to a professional who has experience making patent drawings. A high-quality drawing can help you present your invention as clearly and accurately as possible to the patent examiner. Lastly, experienced artists familiar with the USPTO’s guidelines can help make sure that your application won’t be rejected for insufficient or incorrect patent drawings.

On the other hand, if a professional patent drawing draftsperson is out of your budget, you may opt for a “do it yourself” patent drawing. DIY patent drawings may not have the quality and style of a professional artist's drawing, but they do come with their own advantages. As the inventor, you have access to the most accurate information since you were the one who created the invention. Moreover, completing your patent drawing on your own can offer a sense of accomplishment.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) Patent Drawings

Is it possible to create a patent drawing without the help of a professional draftsperson, even if you don't have the artistic skills required? Thanks to highly advanced computer-aided design (CAD) technology, the answer is yes. This software is often used to create accurate, professional, and 3-D patent drawings. It allows the user to correct mistakes in the drawing as easily as typos are corrected in a word processor.

It is important to note, however, that CAD equipment can be quite expensive. Even so, if you are planning on filing more than one patent application, it may be worth the splurge.

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