The Importance of Providing Alternative Embodiments in Patent Applications

Inventors regularly ask me why I want to know about various alternative embodiments of their invention or optional features that could possibly be used with their invention. Inventors tend to think about their inventions only in the way that they would want to practice the invention or sell it to customers. And that’s great — inventors should be focused on making the best invention possible. But it’s my job as a patent attorney to provide my clients with the broadest protection I can obtain for their invention.

Inventors need to remember that a patent does not give you the right to do anything. A patent only gives you the right to prevent others from practicing your invention. So we want to draft a patent application that not only prevents others from practicing the best version of your invention, but also from practicing anything close to your invention. This means that it’s very important to describe as many different versions or embodiments as possible, even if the alternative versions are not the best version or the version the inventor plans on selling. Otherwise, you leave yourself open to competitors finding a way to design around your patent and make a product that accomplishes the same thing without infringing your patent. Even if the competitors product is inferior, the competitor may be able to offer the product at a much lower price and take potential sales away. If an invention is very valuable, this could cost the inventor a lot.

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