Protecting Your Business: An Introduction to Patent Claims: Maximize Your Intellectual Property Protection in Greater Houston

The core component of a patent is the patent claim, as it establishes the extent of the patent’s coverage. This article breaks down the fundamental elements along with common mistakes.

What is a patent claim?

A patent claim demarcates the boundaries of the invention, determining what the patent encompasses. The primary objective of a patent claim is to outline the subject matter secured by the patent, and in some cases, to highlight the subject matter not protected by the patent. This is why patents are often considered to notify the public about the scope of the patented invention. Each patent claim is formulated as a single sentence. Although there is no legal requirement for a specific claim format, certain components are frequently found in claims.

What are the key parts of a patent claim?

A patent claim consists of three segments: the preamble, the transitional, and the body.

Preamble. The preamble is the initial phrase in a claim. It often sets the context for the claim and may indicate the potential use of the invention. In general, the preamble does not restrict the scope of the claim unless it describes essential structures or steps, or i needed to provide vitality and meaning to the claim. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and courts determine whether a preamble is limiting on a case-by-case basis, considering the overall claim structure, the specification, and the patent’s prosecution history.

Transitional. The transition is a phrase that indicates if the claim is “open,” “closed,” or “partially open.” For instance, “comprising” is an open transition phrase, meaning that the invention consists of the elements specified in the claim but may include additional elements not listed in the claim. Consequently, “comprising” is the most commonly used transition. On the other hand, “consisting of” is a closed transition, signifying that the claimed invention does not include elements other than those listed in the claim Lastly, “consisting essentially of” is a partially open transition, suggesting that the claim’s scope
may not be strictly limited to the specified elements or steps, but may include other elements that do not significantly impact the fundamental and innovative features of the claimed invention. As a result, “consisting essentially of” is usually broader than “consisting of” but narrower than “comprising.”

Body. The body of the claim follows the transition and outlines the features that constitute the subject matter covered by the claim, i.e., the invention. The body emphasizes the innovative aspect of the claimed invention, focusing on elements thatm render the invention novel, non-obvious, and useful.

What are the different types of patent claims?

Each patent claim consists of a single statement with a period at the end. While utility patents can have multiple claims, design and plant patents are limited to one claim. Patent claims can be categorized into three types:

Independent Claims. These claims are self-contained and not dependent on other claims. Independent claims can be divided into three subcategories:

  • Claim for an invention
  • Claim for a method of producing an invention
  • Claim for a method of using an invention

Typically, independent claims include the following components:

  • Introductory Phrase: This phrase introduces the name of the invention and may also mention its potential use.
  • Transitional Phrase: This phrase connects the introductory phrase to the elements of the claim. Carefully choose terms like “including” or “consisting of,”
    and ensure their meaning is clear.
  • List of Elements: These can be descriptions, features, or functions, with a claim containing one or more elements.

Dependent Claims. These claims refer to and build upon other claims. Multiple dependent claims are possible, but they are not very common.

Special Claims. These claims can be further subdivided into:

  • Jepson Claims: This type of special claim is used when an invention improves upon an existing one. It highlights the old and new aspects of the invention.
  • Markush Groups: Another type of special claim, Markush groups consolidate elements within a single claim. These are useful for shortening patent applications with numerous claims.

Common Mistakes

Attempting to write claims on your own
Drafting patent applications, especially the claims section, can be challenging due strict rules and the need for precise language. Errors in writing may lead to an ineffective patent. It is advisable to consult a patent attorney for assistance in the application process to ensure a well-crafted patent from the start.

Beginning with the incorrect claim
Start with the broadest claim and progress to more restrictive ones. Arrange the claims in order from most general to least general.

Improper grouping of claims
Always group dependent claims together and separate product and process claims.

Misusing antecedents (words or phrases to which a pronoun refers)
Once a key term is introduced in your claim, it can be referred to again. Use the word “said” to clarify that you are referring to the antecedent. Use the words “a” or “the” only when referencing more general terms.

Including an incorrect number of claims
A patent examiner may reject one or more of your claims. Ensure each claim can stand independently, and include as many claims as necessary to protect your invention.


Don’t let your patent claims falter due to insufficient support from descriptions and drawings. To ensure the success of your patent application, it’s crucial to enlist the help of seasoned intellectual property professionals with expertise in your industry. In the Greater Houston area, the D’Ambrosio & Menon team of experts is ready to help your company stand out and fully capitalize on its intellectual property assets. Don’t miss the opportunity to benefit from our invaluable guidance and services—reach out to our team today and secure your innovation’s future – 832.886.6845.