Tim (littlebluedog) wrote,
Tim
littlebluedog

non-obviously

Patent applications can be thought of as arguments: essentially, they argue that a patent should be issued for an applicant's invention. As a result, even though patent apps are dull chunks of technical writing, they're usually written in an extremely passively argumentative style.

The most difficult hurdle to overcome when an app is being examined by the Patent Office is to demonstrate that the invention is non-obvious over what's already been invented (referred to as "prior art"). As such, the primary argument is that the applicant's invention is innovative, such as by offering a new solution to a problem, or a more advantageous method or configuration to accomplish some function.

This leads to really weird writing, sometimes.

A popular, but outdated, way of doing this would be for a patent draftsman to sprinkle certain words into the application hailing the novelty of the invention, as if by adding the right amount at the right time would result in a quick patent. For example, I don't think I've ever come across the word advantageously so many times in a piece of prose as when reading a patent written a couple decades ago. This was done, in theory, to strengthen one's case that the invention disclosed in the app is patentable -- or, for some ambitious draftsmen, that everything in the app is patentable, sometimes because during prosecution of the app, it might be revealed that more or different subject matter might be patentable than when the patent app was being drafted.

So, in some patents, there's an advantageously every paragraph, sometimes in every other sentence. This trend was so popular that the use sometimes seems completely indiscriminate, covering both the innovation itself as well anything else in the application, even stuff that's been around since, say, the wheel: "In Fig. 3, tab 22 advantageously slides within slot 24." Really? Who'da thunk that?

Sometimes a patent was obviously written by a draftsman entrenched (or entrapped) in this style of writing but perhaps bored with it, so much so that he ventured to a nearby thesaurus to grab a few new adverbs to use in place of the old standby, advantageously. Here are a couple of sentences from one that I read today:

"The battery box 12 is superiorly closed by a cover 14."

"The cover can also innovatorily be fitted with a testing button 25 to indicate the state of charge of the battery."

In the end, much of what you pay me for is simply to interpret what's really being said from what's been written.

And to conduce additional obfuscation on your behalf. :)
Tags: patents, work
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