Using Ratios In Patents

Blair asks:

I am working on developing a product that is contingent on the size/measurements of a preexisting product that varies slightly from one type to the other. Is it possible to design my product using ratios rather than static measurements? For example, "Plane A of new invention is equal to a 1:0.9 the preexisting product's plane A." Plane A's Measurement will be written as "0.9:1"--thus making it 0.9 inches if the preexisting product has a length of 1 inch. Is this an acceptable practice?


Disclaimer - I am not a patent attorney and am not qualified to give legal adice on what constitutes acceptable practice in writing patents. I asked my brother, also not a patent attorney, but someone who has written first drafts of the several dozen US utility patents for mechanical iinventions issued in his name. He replied, "it's not common." He went on to say that ratios would be essential in patents for mixtures and chemicals. He knows of no particular reason why you could not use ratios in other inventions. The key thing is that the ratio be necessary to the invention itself.

I should add that he has found it useful to include semi-specific measurements in his disclosures and in patent claims with language such as, "approximately 1 inch." Be aware that if you have a patent with this language and end up in a patent dispute many dollars may be spent determining exactly what "approximately" means.

The main thing I can say about patents is that you MUST be sure to cover the best ways of implementing your invention in the patent claims. If there are alternative ways to make the invention that are equal to or better than the ways you have claimed (in terms of cost, manufacturability, performance etc.) then the value of your patent may be low to the point of worthless.

Patents have no value on their own. They only have value if they give the manufacturer/seller a competitive advantage. That generally means a superior product and/or a better price.


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For more than two decades Mike Marks has been active in creating and marketing new products and forming new businesses. As founder of Invention City and co-founder/partner of WorkTools, Inc., Endeavor Products Company, and Accentra Inc., he has managed the design, manufacturing, marketing, patenting and licensing of products such as the Gator-Grip® Universal Socket the Black & Decker PowerShot® staple gun, the Staples One Touch stapler. Over the past ten years products developed by WorkTools have generated over $350 million in retail sales and over $8 million in royalties. Mike has negotiated a wide range of contracts, established manufacturing operations in Taiwan and China, managed national and international sales, run public relations/advertising campaigns and written and produced television commercials and video news releases. Prior to founding WorkTools in 1986, Mike worked as a commercial photographer and photojournalist in New York for clients such as American Express, Nikon and Newsweek Magazine. Mike graduated from UCLA in 1978 with a degree in Economics.

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