Clear Writing Is A Key To Good Patent Drafting

Throughout the normal course of practice, I read many different patents drafted by many different people.

Some drafters use a very obtuse and awkward writing style that is incredibly hard to read. They use convoluted sentences and difficult prose to talk about relatively straightforward and comprehendible inventions. I think this syndrome may be the engineer/scientist in every patent attorney/agent.

My experience is that easy to read documents tend to be harder to write. I struggle to write a simple, succinct summary paragraph for a patent application that encapsulates the entire invention. Honing the text requires removing the passive voice, finding the right phrases that express the idea, then organizing the text to say it clearly.

I am amazed that some drafters go to great lengths to seemingly make their patent applications almost impossible to read. This hurts the applicant in many ways.

First, the inventor is much less likely to read the application. After a couple pages of painful reading, the inventor will likely skip the rest and just sign the application so he/she can go on with other tasks. This results in an application that may or may not include whatever the inventor intended.

Second, the patent examiner is also much less likely to read the application. The examiner typically reads the claims extremely thoroughly and likely skims the specification. Because the examiner has a limited amount of time, the more time spent trying to find support in the specification for a certain limitation or understand the claim language, the less time the examiner can spend doing actual searching. This results in an office action or allowance that may be less thorough than it could be.

Third, if the patent is ever litigated, a confusion patent drafting style can confuse and bore judges, juries, and the parties. A badly written patent may leave open doors for litigants on both sides to interpret the language in different manners. This results in enormous costs for all parties, with no benefit to either side.

Clear, concise writing is difficult to learn and difficult to practice. While everyone has their own quirks, taking the time to re-read and edit for clarity alone is an important step in drafting high quality patent applications. The better the writing style, the better quality the resulting patent and the better service for the client.