As a patent attorney since 1993, I have handled many patent applications, and all of my cases include drawings! Drawings can help to make a strong case for the novelty of your application, and position your application robustly with detailed, captivating, and comprehensible illustrations, in contrast to the mass of text in the detailed description.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

As such, drawings provide a huge opportunity to explain to the patent office, the jury, and the judge the power of your invention.  When the patent examiner can understand at a glance the operation and novelty of your invention, this increases the chances of her granting an allowance for your patent application.

You may be unsure of the rules for patent drawings. Here we’ll cover the Costs, Types, and Rules. Let’s get started! How much does it cost to get your patent drawings? What does it look like? If you are the inventor, you will be able to present your invention in the best way possible to the patent examiner to score your patent grant!

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A Few Basic Guidelines

Example of Edison Bulb Drawing





How Detailed Drawings Can Help During Examination

Gotchas to Avoid

A Few Basic Guidelines

Most patent applications include a few sheets of drawings. For mechanical inventions, the drawings typically provide multiple views of the invention (top, bottom, and right, among others).

You might also show an exploded view where elements are suspended in space and form the complete assembly when the elements collapse inwardly. It is possible to also break down the invention and show drawings for one or more components in each drawing, and the drawings are shown in a logical manner for text discussions in the Detailed Description section of the patent application.

Patent drawings should be numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals, starting at 1. The corresponding parts on the drawing sheet must be identified with the same reference character.

In addition, partial views on more than one sheet must be identified by the same view number, preceded by the abbreviation “FIG.”

Patent drawings should include multiple perspectives. All figures depicting sectional views must face the same direction. The scale of cross-section drawings must be large enough to indicate key features.

Unless other critical stated in the specification, copyright notices must appear at least 1/8″ squares. A copyright notice is not permitted on any side of the drawing except its specification. It may be placed at the bottom of the drawing or in the specification but is rarely necessary.

Despite how attractive the color may seem, patent drawings are generally black and white. Unlike most other documents, patent requirements specify India Ink and solid black lines.

However, there are instances where color or photographs are acceptable. The guidelines also state the limitations of using these materials, which you should be aware of before submitting your patent application.

For example, if your invention is a product that uses the computer, you can’t use a color photograph.

It is crucial that the detailed description and drawings of the invention be coordinated. References numbers are a common way to achieve this.

References Numbers A set of numbers is used to identifying each element in the detailed description section and the drawings. Each element is assigned a unique number and that number is used in the drawings to identify it.

Below are some common guidelines for including reference numbers in patent applications’ specifications (or claims in certain cases).

Use sequential reference numbers: This is not a rule but it is recommended that the reference numbers be kept in sequential order. It will make it easier for the reader to identify the first element, then move on to the next one in the drawings or vice versa.

Jump to every other number: Many attorneys prefer jumping to the next reference number while numbering the elements in the specification.

Some people use a numbering system such as 102-104, 106, etc. If one element needs to be introduced between elements 104 and 106, it can be numbered as number 105.

Reference numbers should not be used as a substitute for good writing.  References should only be included in the description to refer to the elements in drawings.

Otherwise, the description should be written as though reference numbers were not part of it. t. Reference numbers should be used to link the patent application’s detailed description and drawings.

 Incorporate the reference numbers at the end of the specification for your patent application. This list can be used to help the writer verify that the number given for each element’s repeated appearance is correct.

 Consistency of reference numbers: It’s important to use the same reference numbers throughout the description. The same reference number should be used for the same element at different times.

To avoid discrepancies, it is preferable that the same element in multiple embodiments of the invention be assigned the same reference number.  It is important that the reference numbers are used consistently in the description.

If there are two versions of a given element, for example, a ring 200, the invention should reference each version with the same base number.

For example, “ring 202” would refer to the element. Alternately, symbols such as primes can be used to identify similar elements. For example, the first version may be called “ring 202”, while the second version may be called “ring 202”, and so forth.

 Use suffixes with reference numbers: Sometimes, the invention may include two versions of the same element. To distinguish the two or more elements that are similar, a suffix can be added to the reference numbers.

If an apparatus has four lines that pass therefrom, each line may be called line 102a, line102b, for example.

Example of Edison Bulb Drawing

According to the National Archives, on January 27, 1880, Thomas Edison received the historic patent embodying the principles of his incandescent lamp that paved the way for the universal domestic use of electric light. The patent number for his electric lamp is 223,898.

As you can see, the drawings help to explain the operation of the light bulb.  While the drawings label important elements with characters a-e in Figure 4 of the ‘898 patent below. 

As you can see, in the newer patent drawing for Edison’s 438310 patent, the drawing conforms to the modern style which labels the elements with numbers rather than characters.

Design patent applications don’t have reference numbers, as they need the various views of the design (top, bottom, and side views, among others).  For example, you can see the coke design patent below:


The costs of patent drawings vary widely, depending on the type of invention.  Drawings are normally filed as part of a patent application, so while patent drawings by themselves are inexpensive, you may want to consider the total cost of drawings and patent description text together.

Patent drawings can be priced by the sheet and by the complexity. The cost of patent drawings can range anywhere from $80 to $150 per sheet, depending on the complexity of the invention.

Prices also vary depending on the reference materials used to create the drawings. For example, sketches on cocktail napkins may suffice for simple inventions, while more complex inventions may require photographs, a prototype, or CAD drawings to be provided to the draftsman to render the patent drawings.

Regardless of the level of complexity, patent drawings are essential in helping to protect your invention.

Patent attorneys will charge a flat fee for their time. These fees typically include preparing the patent specification, instructing a drafting technician on how to prepare drawings, and preparing the patent application papers.

These fees can be as high as $1000 per hour, though many patent attorneys charge a fixed fee of $4,000-10,000 for their patent drafting services. Thus, when you take a step back, the costs of patent drawings are nominal given the improvements that detailed drawings can help in fully describing the operations of specific aspects of your invention.


Patent drawings are a critical component of explaining the operation of the invention as part of the patent application process. Failure to comply with these guidelines can delay the processing of your patent application or even get it rejected.

You should always proofread the part numbers in the patent drawings and check against the corresponding patent description text before submitting them. The correctness of your drawings and patent documents is essential to the success of your application.

In addition, a patent drawing will help the patent office in assessing the patentability of your idea, particularly when prior art is applied to determine novelty. For example, if your drawings clearly indicate the principles of operation in a way that is unique and differentiated from other solutions, the patent examiner is more likely to allow your application. 

Outside of the USPTO, other readers appreciate good drawings as well.  For example, the primary patent law court in the United States, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, often cites to patent to determine what one skill in the art would have been considered disclosed at the time the application was filed.

The USPTO has specific requirements for the format and quality of patent drawings spelled out in the Manual of Patent Examination Procedure Section 1824.

For patent applications, drawings must be in black and white and maybe colored if the application specifies this option. To include colored drawings in your patent application, you must submit a petition to the USPTO.

The petition must mention the type of shading used for the various surfaces, such as circular, conical, and cylindrical. If you are unsure how to generate patent drawings, contact a patent lawyer for a referral to a good patent draftsman.

A patent drawing must be scaled appropriately so the reproduction characteristics are satisfactory. A view of the invention must be at least two-thirds scale unless it is a sectional view.

The drawing must have sharp, clean lines and be legible. Symbols and lines must be easily recognizable. Legends should be brief and not contain more than necessary details.

The USPTO requires patent drawings to follow specific standards. A drawing must be drawn in a particular format to comply with these standards. A CAD program or computer graphics art drawing program can render patent drawings.

The requirements for the format and quality of patent drawings are laid out in 37 CFR 1.84, which is somewhat difficult to read. However, the rules regarding the format and quality are generally similar.

Generally, the drawings should use solid lines with shading by line segments. Photographs and other non-patent drawings do not meet these requirements, and if there is no other way of illustrating the invention, may be filed along with a petition to the office to accept the photographs.


The patent application process is usually more quickly completed if you include patent drawings in your application. Patent drawings are an excellent way to explain your invention to the patent examiner in more detail.

They also help the examiner understand your invention and make your patent application complete and illustrative. Some patent applications do not require patent drawings, such as provisional applications, but they can help demonstrate your creativity.

A design patent drawing should include a front, rear, right, left, top, and bottom view. The top and bottom views should be presented head-on. You do not need to include perspective views unless they are essential to the description.

For example, you can omit a perspective view if it does not show the whole object, such as a mirror image. On the other hand, a sectional view is an essential part of a patent drawing, showing how different parts of a 3d object fit together.

For example, a process invention can use a flowchart or block diagram, standard industry representations. In these cases, use appropriate industry standard designations to avoid confusion and ambiguity during the patent prosecution process.

While you’re drawing, be sure to highlight important features of your invention and ensure it conveys all the information you need to protect your invention. Of course, you need to have the proper skill to highlight each important feature.

Another critical aspect of a patent illustration is its line quality. Patent drawings must be made in a process that provides good reproduction characteristics. Lines and letters must be thick and durable, and their density must be sufficient to permit reproduction.

There may be several strokes and lines within the same drawing, and some strokes will be of different thicknesses than others. Those who know the art of drawing have the knowledge and expertise to determine the significance of each line.


The USPTO has published a guide that details the format and content of patent drawings. It describes the different types of drawings and lists the formats that must be followed for applying. Patent drawings must be black and white.

Depending on the format and number of sheets, the sheets can be numbered consecutively. The view numbers are also numbered consecutively and are typically in the order that they appear on the drawing sheets. Each view must be preceded by the letters “FIG.”

While patent drawings may be submitted in any format, they must follow strict USPTO guidelines. They should be prepared on white paper in black ink and not use nontraditional illustrations.

Despite these strict requirements, there is some flexibility regarding the size and type of lines. Drawings may contain multiple perspectives, scales, and colors, although they are not required. Provisional patent drawings are recommended. These documents are often shorter and more straightforward than patent applications.

In most cases, patent applications require patent drawings. This is because patent drawings are essential to defining your invention. They help the examiner understand your invention and increase the chances of your patent being granted.

Therefore, it is essential to provide an adequate number of views. While these guidelines vary by nation, they are generally universal. You should consult a patent drawing professional if you’re unfamiliar with them. It is important to remember that patent drawings must be accurate and complete and not just a summary.

Besides providing information about the invention, patent drawings must be appropriately formatted and contain all the necessary details. The USPTO requires patent drawings to showcase its novelty.

Otherwise, your patent application may be rejected. The USPTO has strict rules about the format and content of these documents. Drawings must be in a uniform style on flexible white paper. The USPTO also requires detailed descriptions. You should give as much information as possible in your patent drawings.

How Detailed Drawings Can Help During Examination

During the examination, the examiner performs a search to locate relevant prior art. What happens if the patent examiner considers the broad description of your invention included in the prior art? You will be rejected if you do not include the nuances in your specification. These nuances will help you to distinguish your invention from the prior art.

This includes the prior art you are familiar with when you file, but also the prior art you don’t know or can’t because the prior art is still within the 18-month pendency and hasn’t been published yet.

In that case, the details in your description will need to provide the differentiating factors to amend your claims to avoid the prior art.  Detailed variations of your drawings may be used as support to amend the claims to distinguish your case from the prior art.

This means that you need to give a broad description of your invention and a detailed description of the entire version with all the nuances.  Liberal use of the drawings to illustrate the nuances is a great way to provide more depth to your application while keeping patent drafting costs low!

Gotchas to Avoid

You should strive to be as complete as possible with the drawings since new drawings almost always add new information to the application. 

You can skirt around the new matter by just doing stick figures with the text already present in the case, but that is a tricky step that could have been easily avoided had you submitted the drawings when you file.

To add anything to a nonprovisional application that you have filed, you will need to file another nonprovisional application, but you may lose the original filing date.

The Patent Office cautioned that just because you can get a filing date without a sketch does not mean that any new matter will be allowed at the time that a new or replacement drawing is filed.

Drawings almost always have more text than they draw, so it is hard to imagine the types of patent drawings that you could create after the filing date without violating the rule against the new matter.


The applicant for a patent is required to furnish a drawing of the invention where necessary for the understanding of the subject matter sought to be patented,” practically all patents provide drawing illustrations. 

In cases where no drawings are provided, the examiner may request drawings to be added, as patent applications often require patent drawings to help the examiner understand an invention clearly.

As with the oft-phrased “, a drawing is worth a thousand words,” patent drawings make a patent application more detailed and illustrative.