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I'm writing the detailed description of a computer implemented system that involves a lot of steps that I describe using flowcharts at various levels of abstraction. If I was writing the documentation for this system I would be using headings for the higher level of abstraction steps, and subheadings for the various substeps involved in the implementation so that this structure helps with understanding. However, in a patent description I wonder if all these headings and subheading are going to be interpreted as limitations. The inventive subject is not on all the step, I just add all the steps to make sure I have sufficient disclosure. Probably I'll claim some of the main steps which would correspond to headings, but I don't think I'll claim every substep.

Any opinions on this?

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Generally headings and sub headings are good in patent specifications to help in readability - as in any long technical document. A key to not having headings or anything else be limiting is to characterize the entire description of it as a description of one version or embodiment or example implementation - not a description of "the invention". Of course that holds more weight if you do have a 2nd version to also describe. Also, in the U.S. there is no need to point out the "inventive step". Each claim is, respectively, taken as a whole.

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  • Thanks for your answer. Regarding what you say about “characterizing the entire description of it as a description of one version or embodiment or example implementation”, so far what I've been doing is for most steps I describe all the possible ways I can imagine of how to do the step and then describe in detail a preferred embodiment step. Some steps are unavoidable but others are maybe implementation specific, and I still explained alternatives for those. How would you see the headings/subheadings question on this type of description?
    – martinako
    Feb 16, 2013 at 12:02
  • Would it be better to undo these alternative steps into whole alternative implementations of the system? It may end up being a very long description, I already have 18 pages of description text.
    – martinako
    Feb 16, 2013 at 12:03
  • Best practice, but a lot of work, is to have "variations" of sub aspects of an embodiment and then also have a completely alternative embodiment, with its own variations. Not always doable.
    – George White
    Feb 16, 2013 at 18:08
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    I appreciate the answer "Generally headings and sub headings are good in patent specifications to help in readability". Would anybody have a reference to an approved patent which contains such sub-headings?
    – Panu Logic
    Apr 13, 2019 at 18:14
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    Reluctantly, I link to my co-invention patents.google.com/patent/US9127497B2 Variable configuration blinds. I co-invented and prosecuted it. I used sub headings in order to set off structural descriptions from operational descriptions and because I had so many embodiments and variations.
    – George White
    Apr 13, 2019 at 20:39

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