Introduction to Patents
Glossary of Patent Terms
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12. Do all patents provide the same level of protection?Definitely not! If a patent has broad claims (claims with few limitations), it is more difficult for a copyist to circumvent, and is therefore a strong patent. Conversely, if a patent has narrow claims (claims with many limitations), it is easier for a copyist to make minor design changes to circumvent the patent, and is therefore a weak patent. For example, assume an inventor patented a baseball bat having a novel shape that when used results in more home runs. The broadest claim of the patent states the shape of the bat but does not mention the material from which the bat it is made. This provides broad coverage since it is the shape of the bat which is protected, without any limitations as to material. Now on the other hand, assume that the broadest patent claim states that the bat is made of wood. In this case the patent provides narrow coverage since a copyist could make, use, or sell the same novel bat shape made from metal or some other non-wooden material. In the patent application process, the PTO Examiner will argue for narrow claims, while the inventor will argue for broad claims. Generally speaking, the shorter the claim the broader the claim. This is because it contains fewer words and therefore fewer limitations.
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