Verified Syntheses of Zeolitic Materials

2nd Revised Edition

How to read a patent

Harry Robson
Department of Chemical Engineering, Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, IA 70803, USA

Patents contain information useful in zeolite synthesis, but they are hard to read. So why read them? Because they are often the first and sometimes the only source of this information. Much of it is eventually published in the open literature with the arcane language of the patent discarded along the way. But for those on the cutting edge of discovery, the delay may be intolerable. To one "experienced in the art," the inventor discloses more of his/her thought and research than is generally realized. Finally the inventorās summary of the state of the art may be useful to one new to the field.

In reading a patent, it helps to know what to look for and what to ignore. For example, ignore the claims section at the end of the patent. These are lawyers talking to lawyers; rarely is there useful data there. On the other hand, Example 1 usually tells you what works. Pay progressively greater attention to examples where the product has been extensively analyzed and/or used in subsequent applications experiments. Examples which define the limits of operability are warnings for what can go wrong in replicating his/her work. Ignore examples written in the present tense; these are not experiments but the inventorās best guess as to what might happen under hypothetical conditions.

To the beginner, the "state of the art" summary may be a good source of references. The inventor is obliged to cite all pertinent art because failure to do so weakens the case, but the reader should be aware that the inventor is obliged to show that his/her invention is superior to existing art.

"Summary of the invention" may be useful for a long and complex case. At this point, Claim 1 may be a help. Patent attorneys struggle to get the inventor to define exactly what he/she has invented. It helps to be aware of the process by which a patent case is written and prosecuted. The inventor, pushed by the attorney, rushes to assemble the data to support the case and get it filed. The attorney presses the inventor for wide ranging examples to support broad claims. This is the readerās window for discerning the working of the research organization. The case may be refiled during prosecution to delete some of this superfluous and revealing data, but most often it is not. Bad data weakens the case so the inventor is obliged to be truthful about the data, but there is no obligation to present data damaging to the case. This data selectivity makes patents a suspect source in the opinion of many scientists.