My patent mentor has advised me to utilize the NOLO "Patent pending in 24 hours" to learn how to craft a provisional patent. The drawings are simple traditional black and white sketches. Is there any requirement that prevents me from taking photos or screenshots and including these images in place of a traditional drawing?

  • You refer to "a provisional patent", which is a misnomer. Be aware that it is a "provisional" application for a later utility patent, and is not a patent of any kind and does not, by itself, result in any substantive patentability examination or issuance of any patent. As such, different rules apply.
    – Upnorth
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 21:42

1 Answer 1


You can put anything you want in a provisional application. Photos (even color photos) are frequently filed in regular utility applications too, but they don't reproduce well, so examiners will often require you to submit line drawings. (Still, a fair number of patents issue with crappy, hard-to-see photos, so it's not a guarantee that you'll have to do anything.)

The most important thing is that the photos (or drawings or whatever) clearly show whatever part of the invention you're trying to show. If they don't, you may get stuck in a "new matter" trap: you have to submit new drawings, but you're not allowed to do so because your original drawings don't show everything, which means you (presumably) didn't have "possession" of the invention on your filing date.

The drawings and description must do at least two things: teach a person of ordinary skill how to make or use your invention; and prove that you were able to make or use your invention, on the date you filed the application. If you have any hand-waving in there, it looks like you didn't really know how to do what you're claiming you could do.

  • Excellent commentary is appreciated. Does 'make use' mean an instruction of how to perform the task with the di novo device and its novel process (instruction manual) or how to build the device? Although I can prove the prototype performs the task with resultant measurements without disclosing process instructions or building instructions, I suspect that the purpose of disclosure is to enable others to build the device after a patent expires.
    – gatorback
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 2:07
  • @gatorback a person skilled in the art has to be able to reproduce your invention. You trade full disclosure against patent protection.
    – user18033
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 13:43

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