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I am currently writing claims for a PCT utility application. It appears my independent claim is rather lengthy and can be broken down into many dependent claims, but that is not what I am after.

My focus is for the independent claim/s to be fairly detailed with clarity because what I am inventing here is an entirely original device. As I am after the broadest exclusivity of this invention, I am wondering what my options are. How expansive can be the independent claims? Is there a certain word limit?

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Independent claims can be extremely long. Refer to the patent for the game "4 Square in the Air", which contains a number of sub-clauses that describe the set-up of a playing field, apparatus and some rules of the game.

The more specific an Independent Claim is, the more likely it is to pass examination on the first pass. However, providing claims that are too narrow are likely to lead to extremely weak protection over your invention, as shown in the above post.

Typically, you want to write claims with as broad coverage as possible (i.e., as broadly as would be non-obvious and novel) in the initial application, and use Office Actions (expensive but useful) as a fallback to narrow the scope of claims do not pass examination.

Use the independent claims for the purpose they were intended: broad coverage.

Use the dependent claims to add specific refinements and alternative implementations.

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