How to best write your patent 'recipe' for invention success
A patent claim can be thought of as a “recipe” for making a product that infringes the patent. Just as a recipe sets forth a list of ingredients and the manner in which the ingredients are to be combined to make a cake, a patent claim sets forth a list of elements and the relationships between the elements in a product that will infringe the patent. Leaving out one of the ingredients from a recipe will usually result in a failed cake, and omitting one of the elements of a patent claim from a product will usually avoid infringement of the patent by the product.
This demonstrates the importance of obtaining a patent with claims that set forth only the minimum number of elements in the most general terms for the product, since a competitor needs only to leave out one element or change the way that the elements are related in order to possibly avoid infringement. While the patent claim sets forth the basic checklist for determining if a product infringes the patent, including additional elements in the product does not avoid infringement of the claim as long as the basic elements of the claim are included in the product.
A single patent may include several claims that set forth different combinations of the elements to make avoiding infringement more difficult. The claims set forth what is protected by the patent and are the most important part of a patent.