Avoiding Anthropomorphizing in Patent Applications

Neil Kardos covers why “Avoiding Anthropomorphizing in Patent Applications” is important, in this Practical Patents short blog.

Today, we will discuss a term that seems out of place in the sphere of patents, yet often finds its way into the discussion: anthropomorphizing.

At its core, anthropomorphizing involves attributing human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities, including animals, natural phenomena, and yes, even devices. While this can serve as an imaginative exercise in storytelling, it can lead to confusion when applied to technical documents, such as patent applications.

When inventors conceive a novel device, they often inadvertently anthropomorphize it. The device might “know” something, or perhaps it “tells” another device something. This language may work as shorthand for internal discussions and preliminary design documents, but it introduces potential inaccuracies and ambiguities when drafting patent applications.

Consider a simple scenario: An inventor may describe a device that “knows” its location. While this is an easy-to-understand description, it is not technically precise. When translated into patent-speak, the device does not “know” anything – it’s an inanimate object, not a sentient being. Rather, the device may store or process information that identifies its location.

Similarly, if a device “tells” another device about its location, we’re again sliding into anthropomorphizing territory. A more precise technical description might be that the device transmits a location identifier to the other device.

Why does this matter? When drafting a patent application, it’s crucial to maintain technical precision. The words and phrases you use in your specification could later be needed for the claims. You want to ensure you’re using language that will stand up under scrutiny and is as clear and precise as possible.

Moreover, when dealing with patent examiners and courts, using language that attributes human qualities to your device could lead to a misunderstanding of its functionality and scope, possibly impacting your patent’s enforceability.

And here’s a bonus tip: Avoid using jargon or excessively long words, like “anthropomorphizing,” in your patent applications. While they might showcase your expansive vocabulary, they do little to enhance clarity. Use simple, clear language that accurately describes your invention and its unique features.

Remember, the goal of a patent application is to clearly define the unique features and operation of your invention. Avoiding anthropomorphizing language helps to ensure the focus stays on the technical and mechanical aspects of your device, aiding in the creation of a robust, enforceable patent.

Want more tips? Check out other Practical Patents videos with Neil Kardos here!