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I read a while back that one's goal should be a patent that is a method, a system and a means (I don't quite know what a means is). Is this actually a good goal?

I also read that all the steps of a method (including all dependent claims of the method) must be used in order for it to infringe. Is that true?

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I highly recommend an organized study of the subject. Patent it Yourself by David Pressman is highly recommended. This a complex, deep field with a large number of "terms of art" with very specific meanings. –  George White Nov 17 '13 at 5:03
    
Also, claims can be amended, or canceled and new claims added after filing and before the examiner picks them up to search and examine. Most application sit for a year or more in a queue waiting to get on a queue. Of course all resulting amended or added claims need to be fully supported by the application-as-orignally-filed. –  George White Nov 17 '13 at 5:31

2 Answers 2

It is a good practice to include multiple independent claims of varying type (system, method, means etc) in a patent application. One should not restrict the invention by claiming it in only one form. It is advisable to claim an invention in multiple forms in order to ensure the broadest possible protection.

To determine infringement of a patent by a product/process, one has to go through the claims.

The claims have to be analyzed in detail to find out if a product/process infringes upon the rights of a patentee. Depending on the nature of the claim, the claim may include a number of elements or process steps. Thereafter, your product/process has to be compared with the elements/process steps of the claim. The above comparison helps you determine whether the claimed elements/steps exist in your product/process. A claim is said to be infringed if all the elements of the claim exists in your product. Similarly, a claim that includes process steps is said to be infringed, if all the process steps are present in the process that you intend to follow.

For further details you may visit the links provided below:

http://www.invntree.com/blogs/my-product-infringing-others-patents http://www.invntree.com/blogs/why-should-patent-specifications-be-drafted-by-patent-professionals

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If an independent method claim 1 has 6 steps, to infringe that claim one entity must perform all 6 steps. A different claim 2 depending from 1 essentially says "do all those 6 steps plus these two (for example) more steps. To infringe 1 you must do the 6 steps. To infringe 2 you must do the eight steps. In both cases it is all steps of a particular claim. Anyone who infringes 2, is by definition also infringing 1. If you are doing all 8 steps you are obviously doing the 6 steps.

To infringe a dependent claim one must do all of the steps in all the claims in the chain of claims it depends from as well as the steps specifically written in that dependent claim's text.

"Means", used in a U.S. claim, has a very specific, and somewhat counter-intuitive meaning. There is a claim form that intentionally uses the word means (means+function). That claim form is not used very often. Throwing around the word "means" in a claim that was not specifically intended to invoke a particular paragraph in the patent law is to be avoided.

As a goal you want a range of claim types and scope and you especially want claims that are actually directly infringed by the hypothetical "bad guy" with the deep pockets who is profiting from your work.

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