Tips for Preparing Compliant Drawings in U.S. Patent Applications

An important aspect of many patent applications is the drawings/ figures. Often overlooked in preparing the drawings are the USPTO requirements for the drawings.  When there are time constraints, it may be acceptable to file the drawings that are available and update the drawings later. However, if time permits it is best to file compliant drawings at initial filing of the Application to reduce costs and time spent to revise the drawings later. This post will review the broad points of compliant drawings.  For more detail, see 37 C.F.R. 1.84 and M.P.E.P. 608.02.

drawings in us patent applications
I. Tips for preparing compliant drawings
  • Word processing programs are not ideal for generating drawings, as they generally do not have a wide variety of tools for creating and editing images. Dedicated drawing and flow chart tools, such as Microsoft Visio, are much better for this task.  In a pinch, presentation programs, such as PowerPoint or Google Slides, can also be used. 
  • If drawings are not on A4 or 8.5” x 11” sheets, the USPTO will automatically resize the page to one of these formats, which could change font size and clarity of your drawings. It is therefore better to prepare your drawings on a page formatted as the proper size and with the proper margins.  This way, you can be confident that the fonts and images’ clarity will be compliant. 
  • Use larger fonts than you think you need.  This gives you more leeway with the inevitable degradation of quality that will happen when the USPTO accepts and prints the application. Arial Narrow tends to reproduce well.
  • Whenever possible, ensure that you are provided with original, high-quality image files in your drawings and editable source files of flow charts and drawings.  “Snipping” images out of PDFs or other sources will often result in very low-resolution images that lose critical details (and can look poor when scaled up to appropriate sizes).
II. Page size and margins

Drawing sheets must be on either A4 or 8.5” X 11” paper with the narrowest side on the top.  Each sheet must have a top margin of at least 1”, a left side margin of at least 1”, a right side margin of at least 5/8” (0.625”), and a bottom margin of at least 3/8” (0.375”).[1]    Note that these margins are different from the margin requirements for the Specification (1” on top, left, and bottom margins, and ¾” on the right).

III. Arrangement of drawings on the sheet

Drawings may be oriented in one of two ways: (1) top of the drawing oriented toward the top margin; or (2) top of the drawing oriented toward the left margin.  All drawings on the same sheet must be oriented in the same direction.  Different views of the same drawing must not overlap with one another.[2]  See item V below for how turning your drawings on the page affects how you must label them.

IV. Size and orientation of text in the drawing

All text must be at least 1/8” tall (i.e., 9-point font for capital letters).[3]  Except for labelling of graph axes (which may follow scientific conventions), all text must be horizontal and readable from left to right when the top of the drawing is upright.[4]

V. Drawing and sheet numbering and application identifiers

Unless there is only one drawing, each drawing must be numbered consecutively with Arabic numerals, which must be preceded by the abbreviation “FIG.” (e.g., FIG. 1).  When multiple drawings are related to one another (e.g., when different drawings present different views of the same object), each should use the same number followed by consecutive capital letters (e.g., FIG. 1A, FIG. 1B, etc.).  The drawing labels must be larger than any reference numbers used in the drawing.[5] 

In connection with item III above, if the top of your drawing is oriented toward the left margin, then your “FIG.” identifier for the drawing must be oriented the same way (with the top toward the left margin, the “F” toward the bottom margin, and the ‘G” toward the top margin). Also note that your “FIG.” identifiers for your drawings must match the “FIG.” text used in the “Brief Description of the Drawings” section of your specification, discussed below at VI.

Each sheet should be numbered consecutively using the format of “x / y,” where “x” is the sheet number and “y” is the total number of sheets.  The sheet numbers should appear in the middle of the top of the page, but not within the margin.  If the drawing comes too close to the middle of the top margin, the sheet number may be placed on the right-hand side.[6] 

Each drawing sheet may also contain an application identifier located in the top margin.  If included, it should contain the title of the application, the first-named inventor’s name, and an application number or docket number.[7] 

VI. Brief description of the drawings

The Specification must include a brief description of each drawing.  Each enumerated drawing must have its own brief description.  Thus, for example, where the drawings include FIG. 1A and FIG. 1B, there must be a separate brief description for each of FIG. 1A and FIG. 1B.  If the brief description only refers to FIG. 1, the Specification will be objected to.  Likewise, if the figure label only refers to FIG. 1, but the Specification refers to FIG. 1A and 1B, the Specification will be objected to. Similarly, if you label separate panels of a drawing as “A” and “B” but label the full drawing as FIG. 1, then the specification paragraph that describes the drawing must refer to it as “FIG. 1” and not “FIGS. 1A & 1B”.[8]

VII. Color drawings or photographs

The figures typically must be either black and white drawings or black and white photographs.  However, color drawings may be included when they are “the only practical medium” to convey the information being conveyed by the figure.[9]  The color drawing or photograph must be of sufficient quality that it can be reproduced in black and white in the printed patent.  Any time a color drawing is filed, it must be accompanied by a petition for entry, payment of the fee set forth in 37 C.F.R. § 1.17(h), and inclusion of the following statement as the first paragraph of the Brief Description of the Drawings section:

The patent or application file contains at least one drawing executed in color. Copies of this patent or patent application publication with color drawing(s) will be provided by the Office upon request and payment of the necessary fee.

When filed in paper (which is rare), three (3) copies of the color drawing must be submitted.  This is not required when filed via EFS-Web.

There you have it.  Next time you are preparing drawings for a patent application, be sure to remember these tips.  And remember, working out the smaller details upfront can reduce headache and frustration later.

[1] 37 C.F.R. 1.84 (f) & (g).
[2] 37 C.F.R. 1.84 (i).
[3] 37 C.F.R. 1.84 (p)(3).
[4] 37 C.F.R. 1.84 (i).
[5] 37 C.F.R. 1.84 (u).
[6] 37 C.F.R. 1.84 (t).
[7] 37 C.F.R. 1.84 (c). 
[8] 37 C.F.R. 1.74 and M.P.E.P. 608.01(f).
[9] 37 C.F.R. 1.84 (a)(2) and (b). 


We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By agreeing you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.