Improving Clarity in Patent Applications: The Red Flag of “It”

In this latest blog post, Neil Kardos shares why the seemingly innocuous word “it” can lead to ambiguity and misinterpretation in your descriptions, and offer an alternative approach to improve your patent application writing.

The Ambiguity of “It”: Consider this example sentence: “When the client device communicates with the server, ‘it’ may send a message based on a triggering event.” Now, pause for a moment and ask yourself: What exactly is the subject of the sentence? Is it the client device or the server that may send the message? Unfortunately, the word “it” leaves room for uncertainty, and its usage can create confusion, especially when different interpretations are possible.

Plain English vs. Translations: Even in plain English, determining the intended meaning of “it” can be a challenge. However, when patent applications are translated into languages with different grammar rules, the potential for misinterpretation grows significantly. Each language has its own structure and syntax, and relying on a vague pronoun like “it” may lead to inaccurate translations and misunderstandings.

The Importance of Clarity in Patent Prosecution: In patent prosecution, the clarity and precision of your language are crucial. A well-crafted patent application should support the claims and clearly define the scope of the invention. Using the word “it” can inadvertently weaken your case by introducing ambiguity that could be exploited by competitors or create confusion during examination.

Addressing the Issue: To avoid these complications, it is advisable to replace the word “it” with the actual name of the subject you are referring to. In our example sentence, instead of using “it,” you could specify whether it is the client device or the server that may send the message based on the triggering event. By explicitly naming the subject, you provide clarity and eliminate potential misunderstandings.

In conclusion, the word “it” may seem innocuous, but in the context of patent applications, it can introduce ambiguity and create confusion. By replacing “it” with the actual name of the subject, you enhance the clarity of your writing and reduce the chances of misinterpretation, especially in translations and during patent prosecution. Remember, precision and clear communication are essential in protecting your invention and establishing a strong patent. Thank you for reading, and I hope this tip helps you improve your writing in patent applications.


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