Under this proposal, the submission of certain open-standard computer-aided design (CAD) files would be permitted. The permitted filetypes can be identified in advance, but the idea would be to allow an applicant to supplement the application with a computer file capable of generating 2-dimensional or 3-dimensional visualizations of the applicant's concepts.
Submitted CAD files would not replace patent figures and could not be directly relied upon to satisfy the requirement of showing claimed elements in the figures; only actual patent figures would fulfill this requirement. Therefore, any crucial views necessary to understand the published or patented invention would be fully included in the publication. Further, the contents of these CAD files would not be included as part of any official patent publication or issued patent. However, the CAD files would be made part of the file wrapper and would be available for download by the public after publication of the application. Since the CAD files would make up part of the original filing, an applicant would be permitted to introduce new figures from the CAD files without introducing new matter.
For example, if it is determined during examination that a particular cut-away view would be necessary or useful in understanding a claimed aspect of the application, but no cut-away view was originally depicted in any of the as-filed figures, the applicant would be permitted to introduce a new figure and refer to the CAD file for support of the new figure. (See Attached Example Image).
The ability to associate CAD files with patent applications could benefit applicants (e.g., ability to rely on additional views as necessary to establish support for new figures); examiners (e.g., ability to see more of and manipulate the invention in 2 or 3 dimensions to better understand the invention during examination); and the public (e.g., ability to download CAD files to better understand the art and re-create the applicant's invention). In fact, the ability to tie CAD files to applications may result in more information being made available to the public in an easier-to-digest format than currently made available.
As 3D visualization and 3D printing become more prevalent, the ability to incorporate 3D data into a patent application may be important to the overall mission of the patent office, including the promotion of the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries. The ability to submit CAD files as part of a patent application, even if their use is limited to providing support for later-added 2D patent figures, could pave the way to being able to incorporate 3D data into a patent application in other ways in the future.
This proposal could be implemented as a pilot program, allowing applicants to opt-in on a limited basis.
Additional aspects of this proposal would have to be settled upon over time, such as:
- Would an applicant be required to provide additional evidence or certification that would prove a newly propose figure did indeed come from the CAD file?
- Could an easy-to-use software be implemented to allow an examiner to view/manipulate the CAD file?
- Would screenshots or particular views of the CAD file need to be reproduced as patent figures upon initial filing?
- Would supplemental text be permitted in a CAD file?
- Can metadata associated with the CAD file be effectively wiped during upload to the patent office?
- What filetypes would be permitted (e.g., SVG, DXF, 3MF, STEP [ISO 10303], STL)?
- Would a certain description need to be included in the application (e.g., in the specification) identifying that a CAD file is included in the original application?
- Would color designations, material designations, and the like be permitted in the CAD file, or only structural elements?
- Can the CAD file be amended in any way, such as to correct an obvious error?