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Patents: What is the right level of detail?

Patents: What is the right level of detail?

Finding the Right Balance: Crafting Descriptions That Satisfy Enablement

When Rudolf Diesel patented the diesel engine in 1898, his meticulous descriptions, precise measurements, and detailed operational explanations enabled replication of his breakthrough compression-ignition motor. But too often, inventors go to the opposite extreme, offering vague descriptions that leave patents vulnerable to enablement challenges. Determining the right level of detail to include is key, both for getting the application approved AND for having the granted patent provide optimal value. So how much disclosure is just enough?

According to recent USPTO data, lack of enablement is the second most common reason for patent rejections under 35 U.S.C. §112. Yet over-describing your invention can also limit your protection. The savviest inventors walk a fine line, providing sufficient technical detail for enablement without narrowing coverage.

When drafting patent descriptions, Global Patent Solutions LLC (GPS) advises:

  • Including enough context to allow those skilled in the field to understand and implement the invention
  • Striking a balance between technical rigor and approachable explanations
  • Disclosing core relationships, algorithms, and operational principles while omitting unnecessary minutiae
  • Using broad terminology and illustrative ranges when possible rather than narrow examples
  • Providing implementation guidance without restricting to exact materials, measurements, or embodiments
  • Drafting strategically to satisfy enablement while maximizing after-patent flexibility

With assistance from patent experts like GPS, you can perfect your blend of technical thoroughness and strategic ambiguity. Give them just enough to work with – while protecting your competitive advantages.

Don’t undermine your patent rights through over or under disclosure. Be sure to hit the descriptive sweet spot, fully enabling your invention without limiting future prospects. Because too much or too little detail can kill a patent’s potential.


This article is part of a series entitled “A Guide to Protecting Your Innovations”.  To start the series at the beginning, click here.

Next up in our series, we answer the question: “Are there any bars to patentability such as prior sale or public use?