Patent Illustrations – How to Provide Reference Materials

Our team of experienced patent draftsmen strives to produce the highest quality illustrations, but we can only produce drawings based on information that is provided to us. The better the reference material we have, the better the quality will be on your set of patent illustrations.

We’ve compiled these best practices for submitting patent drawing requests and highly recommend that clients take the time to review them. By following these guidelines, our team of illustrators will be better able to serve you with fewer revisions, reduced costs, and in less turnaround time. Together, we can help you get one step closer to that ultimate approval by the USPTO.

First of all, why does my patent illustrator need high quality reference materials?

The importance of good reference materials cannot be understated in the patent illustration process. Generally speaking, high quality reference materials tend to result in high quality drawings.

  • Good reference materials reduce drafting time, cost, revisions, and turnaround time while reducing the likelihood of rejections at the USPTO. They are simply worth the investment, saving you time, money, and headaches.
  • Insufficient reference material sometimes requires our team to build a 3D model which increases drafting time and cost.
  • Missing information. While we can do some pretty cool things, we aren’t wizards and cannot illustrate what is not presented to us. Plan on giving us verbal instructions as the basis for drawings? That’s going to be difficult for us to work with, as it’s always best to provide us with a reference image.
  • If your provided images don’t capture everything about your product, we might need written or verbal instruction as well. In these cases, more information is better than less.

So what types of reference materials should I provide?

  • CAD (Computer-Aided Design) Files or 3D Models

We strongly recommend that clients send CAD files or 3D models whenever possible as reference material, but we also understand it doesn’t always exist. These files allow for shorter drafting times since we don’t need to take photos, create a 3D model, or guess about unknown parts of the product. These files guarantee accuracy and reduce inconsistencies while also lowering the possibility of a rejection at the USPTO.

  • Actual Product or Prototype

Whenever possible, it’s helpful for our team to have the actual product or prototype on hand when drafting figures, especially with design cases since they need to be even more accurate. Send your product or prototype to us, we’ll take care of the photography in-house, and we’re always happy to ship it back if requested.

  • Client Photos

We can work with photographs that clients have taken themselves, but they need to have a resolution high enough so that all details can be clearly seen. Internet images tend to be of low quality (usually 72 dpi) and details can be difficult to discern, parts of the image are cut off, or the photo is taken from an awkward angle.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when doing your own photography:

  1. When taking photos, take straight-on shots that include the entire device for elevation or planar views. This type of view does not show any perspective in the image.
  2. For perspective views, if you can imagine your product as cubical in shape, take a photograph that equally shows three surfaces of that cube from an angle.
  3. Always include a reference image for each of the views needed in the design or utility case. A single photo for a design case is not sufficient. The client needs to provide a photo for all sides of the product and a perspective view for design cases (see below for more info on design case figure requirements).
  4. To reduce the fisheye effect that all lenses create, take a photo from a distance and then zoom into the subject.
A good isometric perspective view is where you see the three surfaces clearly and evenly.
  • Detailed Sketches

Our team can work with sketches, but please make sure that your product is first fully conceptualized and expressed definitively on paper. Sometimes the sketches we receive are of low quality or even incomplete. When questions arise from these situations, our illustrators are often asked to play the role of product developer, which may result in different expectations about the look of a product. As patent illustrators, we can only work with what we’re given. When your product has undergone thorough product development and industrial design phases, we can stay focused on delivering the highest quality patent drawings. With sketches, a written explanation is also important and you can always provide examples of similar products or elements of a product.

We often receive photocopy versions or low resolution images as reference material. If we cannot see the details, we cannot draw them.

What types of views and figures should I provide?

The types of views required for a successful application at the USPTO depends on the type of patent you are applying for, usually a design or utility case.

Design cases

For design cases, the USPTO recommends using 7 standard views or figures to provide a 360-degree visual representation:

  1. Perspective
  2. Front
  3. Rear
  4. Left
  5. Right
  6. Top
  7. Bottom

However, your application may include additional views such as exploded, cross-section, or close-up views. The attorney or inventor needs to include views that help best explain the product structurally and its design features or novelty.

Often, we are given a single image and asked to produce the 7 standard views needed for the patent drawings. The issue with a single view is that there is almost always missing information for the other views needed in the set of drawings. If a front view is provided, what is on the backside and how wide or deep is the product or device in the side views? A front view does not clearly communicate these important details and may leave out structural details on the rear, left, right, top, and bottom sides of the product or device. It’s important to provide as many of these standard views as possible.

Utility cases

For a utility case, our team needs to know what figures are needed to fully explain the functionality of your invention. A couple of helpful things to know for utility cases:

  • The strategy in what goes into your utility application needs to be developed by the attorney or inventor. While we are happy to provide recommendations, the overall strategy should be established by the attorney or inventor.
  • Since each figure needs to be formalized for the USPTO, our illustrators need references for what needs to be drawn. The USPTO can be a little more forgiving with utility drawings compared to design cases, so consistency within the views and having the figures line up against one another is not as critical compared to a design case. The key is that the details in the particular figure are clearly shown and understood in the finished patent drawing. Therefore, the critical details in the reference image need to be clear and easy to understand for our illustrators.
  • Reference material for utility drawings can be in the form of good quality images or detailed sketches. Some of the common issues with design case reference materials can also be seen in utility cases, but most reference material will be deemed sufficient by focusing on providing good, clear images for each of the figures in a utility case application.

Next steps

As patent illustrators, we want to help you by creating the highest quality patent drawings out there, but we can only succeed based on the input that we’re given. By following these best practices and providing sufficient imagery and clear instructions, we’ll be better able to support you in your patent application journey. Contact us and take the next step today!

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