Can patent drawings be described in the detailed description of the patent? Can the description refer to a drawing as a whole or only its elements by their reference number?
In other words should the description be independent of the drawings, basically describing the SAME elements as the drawings and nothing more?
If the description can refer to a drawing, it is not only describing the same thing as the drawings but in fact also describing a description (the drawing) of the invention. Is such a description containing a reference to a drawing allowed?
To make it more concrete, I have a system diagram showing parts of the invention. Then in further diagrams I show how those parts interact with each other. The elements in those other diagrams should use the same reference numbers I assume because they are showing the same elements (again). But now if in the verbal description I only use the reference numbers then it is hard to know which diagram I'm talking about. Whereas if I can say "In diagram X the element 302 interacts with ..." that would be clearer.
I guess this could be solved by giving each line connecting elements of a diagram its own reference-number. But I haven't seen examples of such patent-drawings, but I have not seen very many examples at all.