Why software illustration tools can be key to securing patent grants

Today’s patent illustrators do not have to reply on the basic principles of drawing to represent objects or devices in patent applications, they can also take advantage of various tools and integrated modules that allow them to rapidly transform an inventor’s idea into a visual drawing, according to the patent disclosure.

When such tools were first developed, patent illustrations were created and drafted by skilled persons only, who had particular knowledge of the tools being employed. In time, individuals began to use illustrating tools and methods themselves in order to protect their innovations and ideas. Drawings can represent an exploded view or a 2D or 3D view, making it easier for examiners to understand the application. In fact, a reporter from IP Watchdog, Gene Quinn has stated that “the only time patent drawings are not required is when the invention relates to a chemical compound or composition is being claimed, or if there is just a method or process being claimed”. However, it is just as important to bear in mind that patent drawings that fail to comply with patent office specifications or that do not clearly help explain your invention, can result in an application being delayed or rejected.  

For many years, the best way to make drawings for patents has been from computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) records. For products that have just been fabricated or for existing models, odds are there that CADD documents will be available as they are used in all cutting-edge production measures. Even where this is not the case, there are clear advantages to making drawings in CADD. Electronic information can be filed to improve the resulting alteration of drawings, drawings can be adjusted to make new drawings and copy components in a drawing can be duplicated and re-used – as opposed to having to redraw each one physically.

New technologies such as AI and machine learning are being used for both patent drawing, and also trademark representations. WIPO has launched a new AI-powered image search technology, which makes it faster and easier to establish the distinctiveness of a trademark in a target market. Many companies are trying to integrate AI into design or trademark drawing and design or trademark database search engines using computer vision (CV) – a field of AI that trains computers to interpret and understand the visual world. Using digital images from cameras and videos and deep-learning models, machines can accurately identify and classify objects and then react to what they see. In the field of CV, there are many AI techniques, relevant to image trademark searches or design searches, such as object detection or in-built editing tool for close cropping of a searched region of interest in the image.

Developments in CADD software allow illustrators to imagine and draw any patent drawing onto screen with higher aesthetics and details. Today’s market is flooded with numerous CADD software, which has been a boon for the IP industry in terms of illustration and designing. Software such as TinkerCAD, CREO, CorelDraw, Solidworks, AutoCAD, CATIA, Draft sight, among others, provide comprehensive reach to any illustrator with multiple plug-in modules. While there remain doubts as to whether it is feasible to use AI and machine learning to make complex patent drawings at this point of time, AI can be used in design illustration to create flowcharts for computer programs or to process related patents or graphs. Smart AI software is being developed, which can directly create multiple design solutions by simply putting in desired goals and defined problems.

In summary, tools are merely mediums for working. There is no such thing as a best or worst tool – each and every piece of software has its own pros and cons. With advances in technologies such as AI, machine learning and Big Data these tools can help design illustrators and search examiners to work more efficiently – it is up to the illustrator which software they prefer to use to complete their work. In trademarks too the use of AI has increasingly adopted by patent offices including WIPO, the China National IP Administration, the EU IP Office and IP Australia to support trademark examinations and to predict objections.

This is an Insight article, written by a selected partner as part of IAM's co-published content. Read more on Insight

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