What is a Patent Claim? (& Basic Types of Patent Claims)

November 4, 2021

To obtain exclusive rights for an invention, the law requires that the patent application specifically claims and clearly states the subject matter the inventor considers his or her invention. A patent application can contain many sections with different information. A patent can be divided into three sections: a specification, drawings, and patent claims.

The patent claims are the only ones that define the exclusive rights granted to the patentee. The rest of the patent is intended to aid in understanding the claimed invention. Therefore, patent claims are the most important part of a patent application. They define the invention that the Patent Office has granted protection. Below we discuss What is a patent claim? and basic types of patent claims

Table of Contents

What is a Patent Claim?

Why Are Patent Claims Important?

Basic Types of Patent Claims

Patent Claim Construction: Tip to Know

Patent Claim Examples

What is a Patent Claim?

A patent claim is usually a description of or statement of technical facts that describes the invention. Undoubtedly, a patent claim is an integral part of a patent application since it defines the patent’s boundaries and the subject matter to be protected. It also explains what the invention covers and what must be protected.  Scope of the claim clearly explains what the patent covers and does not cover. The rest of the patent specification “support” the claims and explains the invention in detail.

These are the key characteristics that should be included in all claims:

  • Complete: Claims must adequately cover the invention and be novel over the prior art. .
  • Precise: Claim language should be clear so others know what is protected by the patent.
  • Supported: All claims should be supported by drawings and written descriptions.

WIPO describes a patent as type of intellectual property that gives an inventor exclusive right to an invention. This can be a product, process, or method that is new or improves on an existing solution. In order to obtain a patent, the public must have access to technical information regarding the invention in a patent application. Next, we will explore why patent claims are important.

Why Are Patent Claims Important?

A patent that is not properly drafted could be invalid. The patent claims are the only way to define the protection granted by a Patent. The rest of the patent specification only helps explain the invention in detail. The Patents Act 1970 stipulates that each complete specification must include a patent claim that describes the invention to which protection is sought.

Accurately written patent claims are the key to receiving full protection on your invention. So, it is essential to draft the claims in the right and proper format. The reasons to write patent claims accurately are:

Reason #1: Protect intellectual property

A good patent is built on well-written claims. The claims help you retain the exclusive rights to your inventions or designs. You can also use them to sue anyone who makes or sells your invention without permission.

Reason #2: Technical description of the invention

Patent claims include the technical specification of the invention. Hence stating all the technicalities of the invention broadly is very crucial. In addition, one needs to shed light on other unknown technical aspects fields to which the invention relates.

Reason #3: Alternate use of the invention

To accurately write patent claims is very important as it includes the alternate use of the invention. The most challenging thing for an inventor is to think of all the possible ways an invention can be used. It is important to state all the aspects which prove to be helpful in the future.

Reason #4: Problem-solving description

Patent claims include the solution to the problem that the invention is trying to solve. So one cannot afford to make any mistakes while writing. An invention without a precise objective may be rejected during the patent prosecution process of granting a patent. The precise stating of the problem and its solution indicates the invention’s usefulness in the future, making it simple for the patent examiner to grant patent.

Basic Types of Patent Claims

They are different types of patent claims that are used to describe inventions in patent applications. They explain the patent’s scope of claims and limitations. According to 35 U.S.C. 112, types of claims can be divided into two categories: dependent and independent claims.

To determine which type of patent is best for your invention and purpose, it is important to learn about all types of patents before you apply for a patent. Below we explore in detail the types of claims in patent application.

Type #1: Independent Claims

According to USPTO, these are stand-alone claims and do not refer to any other claim, they are the broadest. They includes a preamble and all elements necessary for defining the invention. It is an independent claim which sets the tone for the patent protection claimed in the invention. It protect patent infringement according doctrine of equivalents where a patentee can be held liable for infringement even if they do not infringe each limitation of a patent claim. Independent claim, are often more extensive than dependent claims. Understanding the prior art claims minimizes any kind of patent litigations if you seek to apply for a patent.

Three types of independent claims may exist:

  • A claim for a thing/something
  • A process claim
  • A claim for a way of using a thing


Type #2: Dependent Claims

USPTO explains that one or more claims can be presented in a dependent format, referring to or further limiting another claim. Dependent claims are always based on an independent claim or previous claims made before them and therefore limit their scope of protection.

Dependent claims are simple to write because they include by reference all of the limitations of claims upon which they depend. These are the most basic types of patent claims. Claims must be written carefully to secure patent protection and protect the invention from potential infringers.


Note that the preamble for each of these claims begins “An apparatus as recited in earlier claim 1” of the independent claim. Dependent claims fall back to the invention, which in this case is an apparatus. Dependent claims do not always need to cite back to an independent claim. They can cite back to a dependent claim. These dependent claims further spell out and narrow the thing claimed in claim 1 (Independent claims).

Type #3: Specific Claims

In addition to the above basic claim types, there are also many special claim types which are used in different circumstances. If a patent is being granted for a specific invention, a specific claim form may be required by law.

Example of specific claims include: apparatus claims, method claims. “Use” claims, product-by-process claims, software claims and design claims


  1. The ornamental design for an electric car, as shown and described.

Patent Claim Construction: Tips to Know

There is no one-size-fits-all method for drafting a patent claim; each patent claim is unique and depends on the invention. The processes used depend on the protection sought by the patent applicant.

The type of protection sought may dictate whether the claim is narrow or broad in relation to prior art. Attention must be paid to ensure that patent claims do not go too far. This means that they should not contain anything the applicant has not invented. Or too narrow. Otherwise, the patent owner could lose vital protection. It might be worthwhile to hire a patent attorney to help you with the task of writing patent claims.

A claim has three sections:

  • The preamble,
  • The transitional phrase, and
  • The body of the claim.

The preamble is the foundation of all patent claims. Preambles often state whether the invention is a device, a technique, an apparatus, or a method. It contains essential information about the invention.

A transitional phrase follows the preamble. The transitional phrase is the “comprising” phrase. There are three different types of transitional phrases to be used; consisting, consisting essentially of, and consisting of. The “comprising” transitional phrase, is widely used as it gives the broadest protection. According to U.S. patent and trademark office, the term “consisting,” as a transitional phrase, means that the invention is limited to those elements that are contained within it.

Everything following the transitional phrase is the body of the claim. It spells out the elements and the limitations of the claim. The body of the claims should focus on the point of novelty.

Each claim must start with a capital letter and end with a period. Except for abbreviations, periods cannot be used anywhere else in claims. This means that each claim may only contain a single sentence. A claim containing a plurality of elements or steps can be separable by a line indentation.

A claim is indefinite when it has words or phrases whose meaning is unclear. An antecedent basis is a legal requirement for patent law. This instructs that claims “specially point out and claim the subject material which the inventor considers to be the invention.”  This is called definiteness; claims are indefinite when they contain words or phrases whose meanings are unclear.

This explains why each claim element must have an antecedent basis. This means that an indefinite article (e.g., a, or an) should be used before a noun/noun phrase when first introduced. If the noun is later used in the claim, it should precede a definite (e.g., the, or said).

Below are tips on how to construct your claims:

Tip #1: Choice of words in patent claims

To use a new word in the claims, then make sure that you clearly establish its meaning in the description. Watch out for “relative” words like slow, long, short, tall, wide, perfect, etc., unless there is a correlation with another recited element in the claim.

Tip #2: The description must back up the claims

Make sure every claim has enough support in the specification. Words and terminology should be consistent.

Tip #3: Claim alternatives of the invention

Think about other embodiments of the invention. Incorporate alternative embodiments into the description and claim them, this broadens protection.

Tip #4: Avoid unnecessary limitations

Delete all unnecessary limitations before filing claims. Instead, file only the limitations or essential technical features necessary to recite the invention in its broadest patentable form and in the broadest independent claim. Be aware of the related prior art.

Patent Claim Examples

U.S. patent claims must be specific enough to differentiate the invention from prior Art. They must be precise, clear, and logical. These requirements are found in the Patent Act text.

Claims can, however, be the most difficult part to understand in a patent. Claims are often written in technical language rather than common English. One reason is that claims must adhere to strict grammatical standards. To provide an insight of claims drafting, examples of claims for some common inventions and processes are provided below:

Example #1:

If you invented a car, exemplary independent claim 1 and dependent claim 2 may look like:

  1. A vehicle, comprising:

                a frame;

                an engine mounted on the frame;

                wheels rotatably coupled to the engine.

  1. The vehicle of claim 1, comprising a steering wheel to control a direction of at least one wheel.

Example #2:

If you invented Method and apparatus for attaching a personal electronic device exemplary independent claim 1 and dependent claim 2 may look like:

1. An apparatus for supporting an electronic device, comprising:

a support frame including:

a lower joint;

a first cylindrical leg connected at a first end thereof to the lower joint and projecting vertically from the lower joint;

a second cylindrical leg connected at a first end thereof to the lower joint and projecting horizontally away from a first side of the lower joint;

a third cylindrical leg connected at a first end thereof to the lower joint and projecting horizontally away from a second side opposite the first side of the lower joint; and

an electronic device support leg pivotally connected at a first end thereof to the lower joint and having a ball joint at a second end thereof for attachment to the electronic device; and

a strap system.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the lower joint is a friction joint.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the lower joint includes a locking mechanism.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the ball joint is a friction ball joint.

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