Patent to Human-Readable Text Converter

The Problem and the Solution

Patents are hard to read, and the claims are particularly hard to read. Patent claims use a lot of special language, based on case law that imposes special meanings on many words used in the claims.

It is unfortunate that claims are difficult to read, because the claims are the legally operative part of a patent. The claims define what the inventor has invented, they control what the prior art must include to render the patent invalid, and they determine what infringes the patent and what does not.

Luckily, patent claims tend to have a very consistent grammatical structure, and though the vocabulary is arcane and often stilted, it is at least consistent. This makes patent claims particularly amenable to automated processing.

In my practice as a patent attorney, I wrote the following Perl script to convert patent claims into human-readable paragraphs. Since it seems that this tool might be helpful to others, I am making it freely available under the GPL.

Download the program

How It Works

This is a very simple program, using just regular expressions to detect the grammatical structure of a patent claim, and then converting the claim into alternate, approximately synonymous text. It does not use any natural language processing, but I imagine that one could easily add that in, greatly improving the quality of the output.

Among other things, the program does not know how to convert -ing verb forms into -s verb forms, so it has to prompt the user for the conversion. (The user input is cached so it does not have to be repeatedly entered.) Also, when a patent claim describes a method of doing something, the program will prompt the user to identify the person or thing that performs the method. For computer software patents, this is often a computer or computer system.

The input to the program should be a list of patent claims, including the numbers. Each claim element should be on a single line. Generally, copying the claims from Google Patents and pasting into a plain text file will give the right result. Often copying/pasting claims from the USPTO website will work as well, but for some older patents on that site, each claim is all joined up into a single long paragraph, which will not work with the program (although most of the time all you would need to do is break lines after semicolons).

The program takes several options to control the output. Among other things, it is able to produce two styles of output: patent style, where the language is closer to what one would see in the text of a patent, and human style, which is closer to normal conversation but somewhat less precise.

Sample Output

This is the output of running the program on U.S. Patent No. 8,676,045, which has been reported as being a patent on photography against a white background.

I copied and pasted the claim as it came from Google Patents, with only a few minor alterations, moving the word “wherein”, whenever it appeared as the last word of several paragraphs, to be the first word of the next paragraph.

The patent covers a studio arrangement.

The studio arrangement includes a background including a white cyclorama.

The studio arrangement includes a front light source positioned in a longitudinal axis intersecting the background. The longitudinal axis is more or less perpendicular to a surface of the white cyclorama.

The studio arrangement includes an image capture position located between the background and the front light source in the longitudinal axis. The image capture position includes at least one image capture device equipped with an eighty-five millimeter lens. The image capture device is configured with an ISO setting of about three hundred twenty and an f-stop value of about 5.6.

The studio arrangement includes an elevated platform positioned between the image capture position and the background in the longitudinal axis. The front light source is directed toward a subject on the elevated platform.

The studio arrangement includes a first rear light source aimed at the background and positioned between the elevated platform and the background in the longitudinal axis. The first rear light source is positioned below a top surface of the elevated platform and oriented at an upward angle relative to a floor level.

The studio arrangement includes a second rear light source aimed at the background and positioned between the elevated platform and the background in the longitudinal axis. The second rear light source is positioned above the top surface of the elevated platform and oriented at a downward angle relative to the floor level.

The studio arrangement includes a third rear light source aimed at the background and positioned in a lateral axis intersecting the elevated platform and being more or less perpendicular to the longitudinal axis. The third rear light source is positioned adjacent to a side of the elevated platform.

The studio arrangement includes a fourth rear light source aimed at the background and positioned in the lateral axis adjacent to an opposing side of the elevated platform relative to the third rear light source.

A top surface of the elevated platform reflects light emanating from the background such that the elevated platform appears white and a rear edge of the elevated platform is more or less imperceptible to the image capture device.

The studio arrangement includes the first rear light source, the second rear light source, the third rear light source, and the fourth rear light source include a combined intensity greater than the front light source according to about a 10:3 ratio.

The patent covers a studio arrangement.

The studio arrangement includes a background including a cyclorama.

The studio arrangement includes a front light source positioned in a longitudinal axis intersecting the background. The longitudinal axis is more or less perpendicular to a surface of the background.

The studio arrangement includes an image capture position located between the background and the front light source in the longitudinal axis.

The studio arrangement includes an elevated platform positioned at a first distance from the elevated platform and between the image capture position and the background along the longitudinal axis. The front light source is directed toward the elevated platform.

The studio arrangement includes a first at least one rear light source positioned between the elevated platform and the background. The rear light source is directed towards the background.

The studio arrangement includes a second at least one rear light source positioned in a lateral axis intersecting the elevated platform and being more or less perpendicular to the longitudinal axis.

The studio arrangement includes at least one light shield positioned between the second rear light source and the elevated platform. The light shield is configured to shield the elevated platform from light emitted directly from the second rear light source from lighting an upper surface of the elevated platform.

A top surface of the elevated platform reflects light emanating from the background such that the elevated platform appears a more or less similar color as the background and a rear edge of the elevated platform is more or less imperceptible to an image capture device positioned at the image capture position.

As an option, the first distance is about 4.5-5.5 times a height of the top surface of the elevated platform.

As an option, the top surface of the elevated platform is positioned about twenty-one inches above a floor level.

As an option, the elevated platform is positioned about nine feet from the background.

As an option, the top surface of the elevated platform includes a Poly(methyl methacrylate) surface.

As an option, the cyclorama includes a more or less white surface.

As an option, the elevated platform includes a reflective upper surface.

As an option, the first rear light source and the second rear light source include a group of light sources consuming about 40 kilowatts. The group of light sources emits light that is more or less evenly distributed across the background.

As an option, the first rear light source and the second rear light source include a first intensity and the front light source includes a second intensity. A ratio of the first intensity to the second intensity is approximately 10:3.

As an option, the front light source, the first rear light source and the second rear light source are configured to emit light having a more or less similar color temperature.

As an option, the first rear light source includes more elements.

The first rear light source includes a first rear light source positioned between the elevated platform and the background in the longitudinal axis. The first rear light source is positioned below a height of the elevated platform.

The first rear light source includes a second rear light source positioned between the elevated platform and the background in the longitudinal axis. The second rear light source is positioned above a height of the elevated platform.

As an option, the first rear light source is positioned on a floor beneath the elevated platform and oriented at about an upward forty-five degree angle relative to the floor.

As an option, the first rear light source includes a ten kilowatt light source.

As an option, the second rear light source is positioned at a distance above the floor that is about 1.5-2.5 times the first distance and oriented at a downward forty-five degree angle relative to the floor.

As an option, the second rear light source includes a ten kilowatt light source.

As an option, the second rear light source includes more elements.

The second rear light source includes a third rear light source positioned in a lateral axis intersecting the elevated platform and being more or less perpendicular to the longitudinal axis. The third rear light source is positioned adjacent to a side of the elevated platform.

The second rear light source includes a fourth rear light source positioned in the lateral axis adjacent to an opposing side of the elevated platform.

As an option, the third rear light source and fourth rear light source are oriented at about a forty-five degree angle relative to the longitudinal axis.

As an option, the third rear light source and the fourth rear light source are positioned at a distance from the background that is about 0.5-1.0 times the first distance.

As an option, the third rear light source and fourth rear light source include a first five kilowatt light source and a second five kilowatt light source.

As an option, the light shield includes more elements.

The light shield includes a first light shield positioned between the third rear light source and the elevated platform. The first light shield is configured to prevent light emitted directly from the third rear light source from lighting an upper surface of the elevated platform.

The light shield includes a second light shield positioned between the fourth rear light source and the elevated platform. The second light shield is configured to prevent light emitted directly from the fourth rear light source from lighting the upper surface of the elevated platform.

As an option, the front light source includes a twelve kilowatt light source positioned at a distance from the elevated platform that is about two to three times the first distance. The second rear light source is oriented at about a five degree downward angle relative to a floor level.

As an option, the image capture position is positioned at a distance from the elevated platform that is about 2-2.5 times the first distance and at a height that is about 2-2.5 times a height of the top surface of the elevated platform. The image capture position is oriented at about a five degree upward angle relative to a floor level.

As an option, the image capture position includes an image capture device.

The patent covers a method. A photographer performs the method.

The photographer positions a subject on an elevated platform in a studio arrangement. The studio arrangement includes a group of rear light sources positioned behind the elevated platform and aimed at a background behind the elevated platform. The background includes a cyclorama.

The photographer activates the group of rear light sources. The group of rear light sources includes a group of light sources being more or less evenly distributed over the background.

The photographer activates a front light source aimed at the subject. An image capture position is positioned between the front light source and the elevated platform.

The photographer initiates image capture in an image capture device positioned at the image capture position.

The photographer shields the subject from light directly emanating from the group of rear light sources onto the subject.

A top surface of the elevated platform reflects light emanating from the background such that the elevated platform appears a more or less similar color as the background and a rear edge of the elevated platform is more or less imperceptible to the image capture device.

As an option, the method also includes the step of configuring the image capture device with an ISO setting of 320 and an f-stop value of approximately 5.6.

As an option, the group of rear light sources and the front light source include a group of tungsten light sources configured to emit light having a color temperature of approximately 3200K.

Disclaimer

Though I am a patent attorney, nothing written here or resulting from my computer programs constitutes legal advice. Nor does it create any attorney-client relationship. While this program may be useful to you as an informational tool, bear in mind that interpretation of patents is a complicated process, so you should base any decisions on actual consultation with a lawyer, not on a crude, automated Perl script.