Say I have a drawing of the internal workings of the invention in FIG 2. FIG 2 contains references to various main elements/sub-elements. There is also FIG 1 which is an overview of the whole invention. Part of this overview includes the internal workings shown in FIG 2, the rest refers to other described main elements/sub-elements. FIG 2 is a relatively complex block diagram and as I see it there are three choices.

  • reproduce FIG 2 in FIG 1; I would rather not as it would greatly complicate FIG 1 (in fact the circuitry shown in FIG 2 is used more than once in FIG 1). It might also be confusing.
  • reference the whole of FIG 2 in FIG 1 with, say, a blank box annotated with "FIG 2".
  • enclose all of FIG 2 in a box (dashed-lines) and annotate with a reference numeral. Then use this reference numeral (instead of FIG 2) on a blank box in FIG 1.

I would think this could be a common problem, but have not found any patent drawings which reference a whole figure in another figure. So, maybe it's not possible to do this. Thanks!

EDIT - found these in US Patent 5,446,683 enter image description here

enter image description here

1 Answer 1


It is very ordinary to include a subsystem in a larger view as essentially a box. The box is given a number and often a name within the box and a page showing the internal details of one possible embodiment is labeled with that reference number. It can be done with a dotted line but might not be. Do not use the figure number, it is not a reference number for its contents.

  • Yes, the box arrangement seems like the way to go. However, I did find a patent (see edit in original post) which does seem to reference one figure in another, suggesting that while not 'best practice', it is allowed.
    – Me2
    Mar 4 at 13:34

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