Preparing the drawings that must accompany a patent application can be an intimidating task. Can you do the drawings yourself -- particularly if you're no draftsman, much less an artist? The answer is "yes," and by doing so, you'll not only save a bundle of money, but reap other benefits as well. Here's the lowdown.
Advantages of Doing Patent Drawings Yourself
When it comes to preparing patent drawings you have two options: using a professional draftsperson or preparing them yourself.
Using a professional draftsperson. Many inventors turn the job of preparing drawings over to a professional draftsperson. This can be costly. Typically, you'll pay $75 to $150 per sheet of patent drawings. Because most patent applications have two or more sheets of drawings, you can easily shell out many hundreds of dollars per patent application.
Advantages of doing the drawings yourself. Fortunately, if you can do the patent application, you can probably do the patent drawings yourself, too. You'll need to learn some U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rules, and there's a certain learning curve. But there are many rewards. In addition to saving a ton of money on the application, you will be able to:
- prepare promotional brochures for prospective manufacturers or customers
- probably render your invention more accurately than a hired professional (because you know your invention best)
- avoid the difficulty of making someone else understand your invention, or sending drawings back and forth for corrections, and
- achieve great satisfaction by completing the entire patent application by yourself -- an impressive accomplishment for an inventor.
Here are the various ways you can create your own drawings:Prepare and file a provisional patent application online, with Nolo’s easy-to-use Online Provisional Patent Application.
Black and White Drawings
The traditional way of making patent drawings is with pen and ruler, in black and white. The basic tools are inexpensive, but drawing is fairly difficult because you must use India ink. There is little room for mistakes -- except for very small marks, it is difficult to correct misplaced ink lines.
Also, you must learn basic drawing techniques, especially how to draw perspective views that show all the features of your invention. One trick that helps for some inventions is to trace photographs onto paper.
If it's necessary to illustrate your invention properly, color drawings (and color photographs) may also be used. In order to do so, you'll have to:
- file three sets of the color illustrations
- complete a petition explaining why color is necessary
- pay a petition fee, and
- include a statement in your patent application that it contains color drawings.
Black and white photos are rarely used and will only be accepted in applications in which the invention is not capable of being illustrated in an ink drawing or where the invention is shown more clearly in a photograph -- for example, photographs or photomicrographs of electrophoresis gels, cell cultures, animals, plants, or crystalline structures.
Computer Drawing Software
If you are artistically and photographically challenged, modern computer-aided drawing (CAD) programs are close to miraculous. They let you produce accurate drawings even if you qualify as a certified drafting dunce.And you can correct mistakes as easily as you correct typos with a word processor.
CAD equipment can be expensive. CAD software programs, however, are not cheap; suitable ones are available for one to several hundred dollars. Optional but helpful equipment includes a scanner and digital camera.
Creating a drawing from photos. If you have a scanner, you can scan a photograph and import the scanned image into a CAD program. If you have a digital camera, you can photograph the object and transfer the image directly to your computer through a cable. Once it's there, tracing it is easy (and because you use a mouse instead of a pen, you don't even need a steady hand to trace the image).
Drawing from scratch. You can also use a CAD program to draw your invention from scratch. For this, you'll be better off with a program that lets you construct a three-dimensional representation of your invention by using and modifying geometric building blocks. You can then manipulate the model to produce different views and perspectives.
If you are ready to do your patent drawings yourself, and save yourself a bundle of money on draftsman fees, get How to Make Patent Drawings: A Patent It Yourself Companion, by Jack Lo and David Pressman (Nolo).