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Patent Quality – what is it?

There has been a lot of talk about improving the “quality” of the patents that the US Patent and Trademark Office issues, but not much about what the term “patent quality” really means.
As with any product, quality should mean that the item is sufficiently strong and durable so that it does what the owner expects it to be able to do for the life that the owner expects it to have.
The purpose of a patent is to give the inventor or other patent owner exclusive rights to make, use and sell what it is that he or she invented. So, with this in mind, a patent is of high quality if:
a. its claims will be infringed by any competitor who uses that invention in any form that would compete with the patent owner’s product (in other words, the patent has to be difficult to design around);
b. its claims are difficult for competitors to challenge successfully in the various ways the invention can be practiced; and
c. its specification tells the story, in terms that a judge or jury (properly instructed) can understand, about what the invention is, what problem it solves, and why that is important.
The real key to this is to follow the very first rule of applying for a patent — make sure your patent attorney really understands what your invention is, how it works, and why that makes things better (He or she is the one who has to explain things to a patent examiner, or to a court). That is the first step to obtaining a strong, durable patent of high quality.