In a patent application, the claims, the written description, and the drawings are supposed to fit together in a consistent way, according to a few basic rules. Disregard those rules, and — best case scenario — you’ll get to waste a lot of time and money filing corrected drawings and amendments to the specification. Worst case, you’ll get claims rejections that you can’t overcome without filing a continuation-in-part (expensive), and maybe not even then if some prior art has popped up in the meantime.

First, a bit of terminology and background. The claims are what determine the extent of your patent rights. You can think of claims as being made up of some elements, and some relationships between the elements. Referring to the canonical example invention — a chair — the claim might be something like:

A chair, comprising a seat, at least one leg extending downward from the seat, and a back extending upward from the rear portion of the seat.

In this example, the “elements” would be the seat, the leg, the back, and possibly the rear portion of the seat. Claims must also indicate how the elements relate to each other. Here, for example, “extending downward from the seat” indicates the relationship of the leg to the seat. More »