How to Read a Patent

Patents are defined by their claims. Claims define the boundaries of the invention over which a patent holder has legal rights. Thus, if you do not make, use, offer to sell, or sell something listed in the claims section of the patent, you do not infringe the patent.

Each claim consists of elements. In order to infringe a claim, you must have done all of the elements listed. Each claim is considered either "independent" or "dependent." As implied by the term itself, an independent claim stands alone in its description and lists of all the necessary elements. On the other hand, a dependent claim piggybacks off of an independent claim by incorporating everything stated in the independent claim and adding an additional limitation.