How to Avoid Patent Drawing Rejections by the USPTO

When applying for a patent, there may be rejections along the way, but they usually do not mean the end of your goal of obtaining a patent. In order to maximize your chances of success, it’s helpful to understand some of the most common reasons for patent drawing rejections by the USPTO before submitting your application.

It should be noted that a patent application could be denied for a number of reasons, including situations where the invention is anticipated or already existing, to lack of patentability of an object, such as the laws of nature. In this article, we’ll focus on areas that are specific to patent drawings. You should consult your patent attorney if you have additional questions regarding your application.

Technical issues

During an initial review of a patent by the USPTO’s Office of Patent Application Processing (OPAP), your patent drawings will be examined to make sure they can be scanned and reproduced legibly. If your drawings do not meet that criteria, OPAP will object to your drawings and give you a specified timeframe to correct them.

Some common technical issues uncovered during this phase of review are:

  • Line quality is too light, blurry, or text is illegible.
  • Incorrectly sized paper or margins. USPTO drawings must be on either A4 or US letter-sized (8.5” x 11”) paper. Margins must be at least 1” top, 1” left, ⅝” right, and ⅜” bottom.
  • Too much text or text in a language other than English.
  • Drawing figures are not numbered according to USPTO rules.
  • Low-quality photographs that are illegible when reproduced and if an ink illustration could have been submitted instead.
  • Submission of color drawings or color photographs, but the applicant has not filed a petition seeking approval for use of color.

When submitting amendments to your patent application, the revised imagery cannot introduce previously undisclosed, new matter into your invention. All drawings must be addressed in the “Brief Description of Drawings” section of your application.

Substantive issues

In addition to technical issues, there are also several substantive illustration issues that could prevent your application from being approved. Resolving these issues are usually more complicated than technical drawing issues.

Non-Enablement

In patent law, sufficiency of disclosure or enablement is a requirement in which a patent application must disclose enough detail about an invention so that a person skilled in the art could carry out the claimed invention. Non-enablement is the lack of disclosure of this detail and would most likely result in a rejection by the USPTO.

Examples of non-enablement can be seen in patent illustrations where details of an invention are shown in some views but not in others. For example, in the patent illustration of a handheld calculator (below), the buttons on the device may have beveled edges, indicated in a front perspective view (FIG. 1) and side view (FIG. 4), but not shown with the correct shading and lines on a back view (FIG. 3). One can also note that the side view of FIG. 5 does not accurately show the notching between buttons. This discrepancy is evident of non-enablement which may lead the examiner to have to resort to conjecture, a red flag for a potential patent rejection.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/fR14fTK2vD4dv09_RRk3DWfkFwpQ3qt-TQrDlCs8__WE3toodnWxSolp7d3QATwiadHaOowe76Y_cPo1AJcYdtoeL8ydRQ5IBVMHd8poSaMRkD8EQlryEE2WF9ObmfEXfLHzbWhD
This FIG. 1 perspective view shows buttons with beveled edges.
FIG. 3 does not indicate the beveled button edging through appropriate shading and lines. FIG. 5 does not show the notching detail between buttons.

Ambiguity

Another common reason for patent rejection is ambiguity, when an element is disclosed in a way that its shape is undeterminable. Ambiguity in patent drawings can occur when it is impossible to determine what the shape of an object is based on a certain view submitted.

In the below FIG. 4 front view of a piece of audio equipment, we can see this object has feet on the bottom that maintain contact with a surface. It is impossible, however, to determine the shape of these feet unless a bottom view is also submitted in the application.

This object has surface-contacting feet on the bottom, but it is unclear what shape they are.

For example, in the below two images, we can clearly determine the shape of the feet adhered to the bottom of the object. On the left, the feet are square in shape, whereas they are circular in shape on the right. Submitting a figure such as one of the below will allow an examiner to determine the shape of the feet that was previously ambiguous in FIG. 4.

These figures clearly show the shape of the feet from a bottom view.

Objections to Drawing Disclosures

Objections to drawing disclosures occur when something is incorrectly shown on a drawing, yet still understood by an examiner.

For example, in the below image, a backpack with a zippered pocket is shown from two different angles. In FIG. 1, the zipper pull is located all the way to the right, while in FIG. 2, it is shown in a slightly raised position. This discrepancy may have been the result of an illustration based on a photograph that showed the zipper pull in a different position after moving the backpack at a different angle. While this difference may be unnoticeable to an untrained eye, patent examiners are notorious for their level of detail!

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/Fo8GnHOl6vVuFQR6vHl27CvrISJ89-epzaSC2zI8ZXA0cj38kN6YjYvr_og-ymFD4-PMZbA2UMgtJH1GjlEPXz6euAjlaliqSd9JZSk3Proj1l-kjcNPdzoM0PG0e6_aE0BGt2Ci
The zipper pull of this backpack is located in different positions in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2.

Another type of objections to drawing disclosure may come in the form of inconsistency when depicting objects with large, arbitrary numbers. For example, the below image of a hairbrush shows a large number of bristles. These bristles must be consistency illustrated if different views are submitted in the application.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/qIjsVoPcg3nlJB2fk8X-ZNh70xdLe8K0KpqZwCzC4j53FsxzxtjBww1DowqRjMsxzTZSiS-K8brA5iimH9dGVot8PdcYu1zMSjuHHb9rwAZMHXafE69DmLdDBdaYOzPA6H5sJbdr
The bristles of this hairbrush must be consistently illustrated in different views.

Similarly, the illustration of this drain strainer shows 72 ribs on the outside and 49 ribs on the inside. It must be consistently shown on different views as well.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/gjL0mzLNQl65i04wevWeoLFTIhWiI44XYMUpX3ErZmahjie7T8Oy4_k63EqV2bsJGfxrTrdCeY53QFk67VDzw98JauI-HNfQyCJUtu8wWVQjSDyiHECpolp53KF9Tj0ePEE2pWv4
It’s all in the details. This object has 72 ribs on the outside and 49 on the inside.

Next steps

Our expert team of patent illustrators has over 45 years of experience navigating complicated patent drawing scenarios according to USPTO requirements as well as international patent organizations. We are eager to serve you and deliver the best possible outcome for your patent drawings.

Was your patent rejected due to poorly drawn figures? No problem – our team frequently works with applicants to fix rejected figures for resubmission.

Contact us and take the next step towards obtaining a patent today!

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