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More than a Buzzword: Plain Language is Essential to Defensive Publication

By July 27, 2022No Comments

Plain language is increasingly crucial to today’s written language. Writers should use simple terms instead of technical jargon to encourage widespread communication of their ideas. No matter what line of work, to ensure readers outside the writer’s field understand ideas, writers must use words, phrases, and formatting the majority of people can understand.

The goal of plain language is to write so the reader can:

  • Find the information
  • Understand the information
  • Use the information

Simple.

However, this seemingly obvious approach to effective communication is not often reflected in critical descriptions of intellectual property.

What does plain language mean for defensive publication?

As part of a strong IP strategy, organizations protect non-patented inventions through defensive publishing. To fully protect such ideas, though, experts must explain the innovation such that readers with a basic knowledge of the art can understand it. Given the global reach of tools like IP.com’s Prior Art Database (PAD), this includes speakers of multiple languages and people outside the main field of the invention. A reader must understand a disclosure to avoid infringing upon its protected innovations.

When creating disclosures for defensive publication, inventors explain the background, rationale, and advantages of the innovation. They describe its components, process steps, and all the pieces of the idea that make it novel. They should explain all of this using language the reader can understand for greatest efficiency and effectiveness.

Plain language experts say: Keep it simple. Logically summarize concepts. Use headings to guide the reader throughout the disclosure parts. Separate core ideas so the reader can easily identify invention components, follow process steps, and correctly associate graphics that display the steps. Place figures near the content they support and clearly label them.

Each defensive publication contains unique information dealing with unique methods and systems. So, the writer must clarify terms at the first appearance of an acronym. Assuming the reader correctly interprets the meaning and hoping for the best rarely leads to positive experiences.

For example, a subject matter expert (SME) may assume the reader knows all acronyms in the sentence: SREs monitor VMs to protect against DDoS attacks.

However, the author may lose the reader who pauses too long to identify the acronyms’ definition within the context. The reader’s time is valuable, and they may move on to something else if they do not quickly understand the author’s meaning. Worse, the reader may misconstrue the acronym’s meaning and thus misunderstand key concepts of the invention. Instead, in the above example, a simple definition of terms upon first mention within a disclosure clarifies the author’s intention:

Site reliability engineers (SREs) monitor virtual machines (VMs) to protect against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Incorporating this simple definition eases the reader’s burden as they read the disclosure, so the reader continues without interruption and more likely appreciates the innovation presented.

Plain language also calls for shorter sentences with active verbs to retain readers. Instead of writing, The system will be initiating the launch process, write The system starts or The system initiates. This is a simple, actionable adjustment that keeps the reader actively engaged, free of extra mental work, and moving forward within the disclosure.

As Cheryl Stephens of Plain Language Wizardry says, “The less effort needed from the reader, the more they like your ideas.” With defensive publications written in plain language, readers understand and appreciate the ideas, the intellectual property remains well-protected, and the issuing organization can move forward with further patenting opportunities.

Keep it simple. Make it clear. Retain the reader. Spread ideas effectively.

Words matter. Using words, sentences, structure, and format in a way that helps people across disciplines understand an innovation and its novelty is essential. What’s the point of having a great idea and putting it out there if most people who read about it cannot get past the acronyms and jargon to understand the excellence?

Experts and inventors are awesome. Their innovative ideas transform the world. Here at IP.com’s Editing Services, we help package experts’ ideas into a digestible, plain language format to communicate to the masses, protecting ideas while making them accessible to wider audiences.

Let’s get your ideas out for the world to understand and appreciate.

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