By Richard Stim, Attorney
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office requires that patent applicants submit drawings of their invention, if such drawings are necessary to understand the workings of the invention. Preparing the drawings that must accompany such a patent application can be an intimidating task. Can you do the drawings yourself, even if you're not a professional draftsman or talented artist? The answer is "yes," and by doing so, you'll not only save money, but reap other benefits, including a higher degree of control.
When it comes to preparing patent drawings, you have two options: You can hire a professional draftsperson or drafting company, or you can prepare them yourself.
Using a professional draftsperson. Many inventors turn the job of preparing patent 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 pay many hundreds of dollars per patent application. Prices will vary significantly, though, depending on the nature and complexity of your invention.
Advantages of doing the drawings yourself. Fortunately, if you can write the patent application yourself, you can probably draft the patent drawings yourself, too. You will need to learn some PTO rules, and there will be a certain learning curve. But there are many rewards. In addition to saving money on the application, you will be able to:
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.
The traditional method of making patent drawings is with pen and ruler, in black and white. The basic tools are inexpensive, though drawing is fairly difficult because you must use India ink (a dark type of ink with carbon particles that is often used in architectural or technical drawings). There is little room for mistakes, except for very small marks, it is difficult to correct misplaced ink lines.
You will need to learn basic drawing techniques, especially drawing 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 is necessary to illustrate your invention properly, color drawings (and color photographs) may also be submitted. In order to do so, you must:
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. These might include, for example, photographs or photomicrographs of electrophoresis gels, cell cultures, animals, plants, or crystalline structures.
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. This equipment can set you back several hundred dollars. Optional but helpful equipment includes a high-resolution scanner and digital camera.
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).
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 some money on draftsman fees, read How to Make Patent Drawings: A Patent It Yourself Companion, by Jack Lo, Patent Agent, and David Pressman, Attorney (Nolo).