What is a Broad Patent?

‘Broad’ in patent terms generally refers to the scope of the claims of a patent, the part of the patent application that describes the legal bounds of the invention.

A patent that claims and discloses an invention with a broad scope has few limitations rather than a narrow patent that has a limited narrow scope. A broad patent may claim the inventive concept and use a number of implementations or embodiments of the inventive concept  to illustrate the concept rather than a patent that merely describes a prototype’s construction (narrow). The benefit of a broad patent is that it is a bigger piece of intellectual property, worth more both to the inventor and to potential licensees (that are more willing to pay the inventor because they are getting more) because it is more difficult to “design around.”  (For more on this, see the book Invention Analysis and Claiming.")

An illustrative example may be seen in the chart below where the blue rectangles below represent a whole potential inventive concept as it fits within a field of art or invention but does not encompass the prior art (red rectangles). The light blue rectangles represent the claims of a number of prototypes or embodiments that are narrowly claimed within the inventive concept. This narrow claiming left room for several Competitive Embodiments of the Inventive Concepts to come later that are not claimed and do not infringe on the Prototype or Embodiment Patent. Alternatively, situations could also exist in a field where all that is left in a particular art field to patent are small, narrow claims that do not fall under one inventive concept where the cost of obtaining and maintaining a very narrow piece of Intellectual Property may be reasonable or it may be prohibitive (not every invention is worth patenting). Finding the scope of the field of art and the scope of the prior art and how a potential inventive concept would fit in would be the job of a competent patent searcher. With no search, a patent application could easily be written and submitted to the USPTO that was contained completely within the prior art or was a very small piece of intellectual property.

Why aren’t all patent applications written to be broad patents? The inventive concept may be difficult to define (not fast or easy). It is easier to think in terms of prototypes and elements than it is to define what the invention really is or what concept it really illustrates. On the other hand, claiming excessively broad claims may lead to objections because the claim is not definite or an excessively broad patent may read on the prior art and be refused. However if claims are written broadly in an application (not claiming prior art) and new unknown prior art (unsearched or not yet published) requires that the claims be more limited in order to issue, a broad patent may have room to be narrowed during patent prosecution while a narrow patent may not have anything to give up or may be excessively small after narrowing. Patent claims may not be broadened during a patent prosecution.

Alternatively,  a patent application may be defective for claiming less than patentee had a right to claim where the patent claims are not broad enough to protect the invention (and the patent is thereby inoperative to protect the disclosed invention). If this is the case and the patent did issue, a patentee in this situation may have grounds for filing a reissue application. (See MPEP 1402 Grounds for Filing.)

Broad patents are not just for large companies. Individual inventors can also benefit from having their inventions claimed in a manner that provides broad intellectual property rights. Call us with questions at (651) 500-7590. Not Just Patents® Legal Services not just offers patent searches, patent applications and complete trademark services but also we offer a LAST FIVE or LAST TEN search of the latest patents issued in a specific field with the Image File Wrappers included with the search. The Image File Wrappers show the complete prosecution history of a particular issued patent including office actions and responses to office actions to give a potential patentee in the field an idea for the types of prior art that is being cited, what the common refusals are, how a particular patentee answers those refusals and more.

Field of Art

Prior Art

Inventive Concept

Prior Art

Prior Art

Red rectangles are Prior Art

Competitive Embodiment of Inventive Concept

Inventive Concept

Competitive Embodiment of Inventive Concept

Blue rectangles are potential areas of an inventive concept


Prototype or Embodiment


Light blue rectangles are inventive concept claimed by narrow prototype or narrow embodiment descriptions

Prototype or Embodiment


Yellow rectangles are unclaimed parts of the field of art

Competitive Embodiment of Inventive Concept

Prototype or Embodiment


Prior Art



Prior Art

Prior Art

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