Patent Claims – An Analogy

Understanding patent claims is crucial when you are trying to understand what a patent is and what it can do for you as an inventor.  I recently read in Mechanics of Patent Claim Drafting by John Landis a great, easy-to-comprehend explanation: “A claim is a one-sentence definition of the structure of the defined invention.  It defines that invention with the same particularity and precision as the description of a parcel of land in a deed.  The analogy to the deed is a good one because United States [patent] claims serve to define the outer limits or boundaries of the invention in the same fashion as the description of land in a deed defines the outer limits of the land monopoly.”

I love the analogy to a piece of tangible property as a way for the layman to understand an intangible patent.  Landis ends the explanation with an adaptation of a line from Sperry v. Florida, which I love as well for its emphasis and implicit warning to inventors: “[T]here are very few if any chores in the area of legal draftsmanship that are as demanding of language as the chore of drafting a claim.”