12 Dangerous Habits for Defensive Publications

Defensive Publishing, Intellectual Property Strategy Tags: defensive publication, Intellectual Property, IP.com

In addition to basic spelling and grammatical errors, your writing choices can negatively impact the effectiveness of your defensive publication.

Defensive Publication Refresher

When you have an invention, you have three basic choices for protecting your intellectual property: you can file for a patent, keep it as a trade secret, or defensively publish the idea.

In a previous blog post, we identified 7 Components to a Well-Developed Defensive Publication. Each of these components helps you protect your intellectual property, when you place it in the public domain, instead of sending it through the patenting process. To recap, the main parts of a defensive publication are the:

  1. Abstract
  2. Problem Statement
  3. Known Solutions & Drawbacks
  4. Novelty Statement (defining the solution)
  5. Implementation/Process Steps (essential for proving enablement)
  6. Example Embodiment(s)
  7. Supporting Figures/Images

In terms of a successful intellectual property strategy, defensive publication is cost-effective yet extremely valuable. However, with the above components being what you need to write, you also need to consider how you write. If your statement of novelty, process steps, example embodiments, or figure is confusing to the reader, then the document is not doing its job. Your ownership of the idea might be less defensible if the idea and its execution are unclear. Knowing some of the pain points can help you build a stronger defensive publication.

12 Dangerous Habits and Potential Consequences

Everyone has slightly different writing styles. Even when putting together a functional technical document, one writer might enumerate steps in great detail, while another might heavily rely on process-flow diagrams. While both approaches are acceptable, as are many others, the writer must clearly present the information and leave no room for misinterpretation. Some seemingly harmless tendencies can undermine your work and discredit your invention.

Here are some bad writing habits, as they apply to invention disclosures, and the potential consequences:

# Writing Habit Consequences
1 Disorganized ideas • Redundancy
• Confusion of subject matter (e.g., background vs. problem description, prior art vs. inventive idea, etc.)
• Difficulty in identifying implementation and steps for enablement
• Uncertainty due to misalignment of figures with associated text
2 Use of first person narrative • Cannot identify the writer from the intended users. The reader does not know the meaning of “we” or “I” (e.g., inventors, developers, engineers, end users, customers, etc.), which impacts the understanding of enablement.
3 Misuse or omission of prepositions (e.g., in, of, on, about, through, over, etc.) • Changes the meaning of the sentence, which can change the meaning of the description
• Leads to confusion and can cause misinterpretation of the idea and points for enablement
4 Subject/verb agreement • The difference between singular and plural items, steps, etc. can change the meaning of the description and components of an enablement
5 Storytelling (e.g., creating an elaborate picture of the problem) • Presents too much irrelevant information when the problem or example can be stated in one or two sentences
• Seemingly limits relevance/application of the inventive idea
6 Improper or incorrect formats for process steps; incorrect outline development • Implementation steps are confusing, difficult to follow
• Enablement is ambiguous
• Prevents someone with basic knowledge of the art from understanding the process flow
7 Passive voice • Cannot identify the subject
• Implies uncertainty
• Implies future events rather than present/invented capabilities
8 Use of adjectives and adverbs that express opinion (e.g., obviously, unfortunately,
of course, etc.)
• Not useful in a technical document
• Adds to length
• Unprofessional
• Unproven
9 Use of colloquial language (e.g., “deal with” vs. “manage”; “keeps track of” vs. “tracks”; “down the road” vs. “later”, etc.) • Can lead to confusion, misinterpretation, or mistranslation between languages
• Unprofessional
10 Use of copyrighted names, text, or images without express written permission • Risk of lawsuit
11 Illegible, unclear figures (e.g., dark colors, very small text, etc.) • Does not meet the requirement for showing enabling detail or an example embodiment
12 Undeterminable referent for a pronoun (The writer uses a pronoun such as “them” or “it,” but the word to which the pronoun refers is not known). • Leads to confusion, misunderstanding
• Makes enabling details difficult to follow
How to Overcome the Bad Habits

Overcoming bad habits is a matter of replacing them with new ones. Keep the above list handy – maybe highlight your top offenders. And try these approaches:

  1. Think of your invention in the present-tense: explain not what it will do, but what it does to solve the problem; talk about who or what works with the system or method, as opposed to describing an abstract, disembodied action.
  2. Read your work out loud. If it sounds awkward, then it is confusing to read.
  3. Have someone else proofread your work. After working on the same document for some time, our minds tend to show us what we want to see, and we overlook own mistakes.
  4. Use a professional copy editor. If you know those habits are there, but you are not sure how to fix them or don’t have time to teach yourself how to write another way, then work with someone who can take a step beyond proofreading to help organize and clarify your ideas. IP.com is ready to help you prepare a solid defensive publication. Send us a note to find out more about our Editing Services.

As we all know, forming new, good habits isn’t easy. Once you are aware of what to change, realize that you can change it, and give yourself time to get there. You have spent a lot of time developing your invention; give its presentation to the world the same consideration.