A patent claim defines the boundaries of an invention, and therefore lays down what the patent does and does not cover. A patent claim is the most important thing in a patent application, for it defines the subject matter that is sought to be protected. And the rest of patent specifications are explaining the invention in detail.
A patent claim is usually expressed as a statement of technical facts in legal terms. A claim cannot be broad, because the applicant cannot get patent for what his/her invention cannot do. An applicant would not want the claim to be too narrow as well, because he/she would not want to lose full protection for his/her invention. The main categories of claims are product claims and process (or method) claims. While the former can be a device, article, or a combination thereof, the later can be a claim describes a series of acts or steps for performing a desired function.
There are two types of patent claims: independent claims and dependent claims.
- Independent claims
Independent claims can “stand alone”, without referring to any other claim. It contains all the elements necessary to define the invention.
- Dependent claims
Dependent claims have to bear reference to an earlier claim or independent claim, and must further limit the previous claim.
[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]