Most patent attorneys use a patent draftsman. Or at least sends their drawings to someone who does Patent drawing drafting. I will probably do that too, in the future. At the moment though, many of my clients have embodiments that could only be drawn if a CAD model existed. Using CAD is a bit of an overkill way to produce 2-D drawings, but applications are supposed to effect a “constructive reduction to practice.” If an invention needs to be depicted in a way that really does reflect a functioning embodiment, though, I think it’s valuable for there to be at least one embodiment in mind where dimensions of a plausible embodiment exist.
I like to learn a variety of CAD programs, and most recently, I have been playing around with on shape, Autodesk inventor, and openSCAD. However, just because of its speed, and because it is free, I have most frequently spent time with Google SketchUp (Pro).
Sketch up can be a frustrating program, but it is free (at least to learn), and it does lend itself to making parts adequate for 3r printing, which then are made into a whole. The nice thing about using a CAD package, like sketch up, is that it allows you to make many different views of the object and the object itself is an excellent form for future development of the product.
If the product is something that already requires all of modeling software, that’s a no-brainer to simply generate black-and-white line images of the product from those files. One problem that I ran into, however, is that SketchUp is not very good for annotations. Patent drawings require each part of the invention depicted in the drawings to be referenced in the detailed description of the drawings or the detailed description of the invention. Annotating is the task of labeling components with the reference number, if not the actual name for the component.
A variety of packages are able to do nifty things for annotating, like locating a point in space for the reference label to sit, and rotating the image keeps the label in the same relative position as the object is manipulated. The problem with using 3-D annotations is that all the things that makes them work for easy reference and as the object is manipulated tend to create obstructions when attempting to generate 2-D images of the 3-D object.
Ideally, none of the reference numbers should actually appear over the image of the invention. They should be off to the side of the depicted view, because there’s usually so many little things to point at that they wouldn’t be able to fit right next to one another and still be legible. So the drawings are usually generated by finding the ideal perspective of the invention creating the drawing as a 2-D image, and then applying the reference numerals.
If you attempt to do the annotations before creating the 2-D image, the annotations that were so neatly arranged so as to stay relatively close to the object that they labeling, so that they float in space at a position that sits in the periphery of any particular view.
I needed to investigate better software for applying labels to a 2-D image. At the moment, the best program that I’ve found among what I already had is actually PowerPoint [edit, May 2016: I’ve actually used Adobe Illustrator, Apple Preview, Adobe Acrobat, GIMP, and Adobe Flash in recent months]. I will have to find out what the best patent draftsmen use.
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