Processing photos for use in patent applications

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A method for preprocessing photographic images in illustrations of patent applications is proposed in order to reduce information loss during their subsequent copying or scanning in black and white for placement in patent databases.

Photographic images (hereinafter referred to as photographs) are often used as illustrative material in patent applications for inventions, primarily in the fields of chemistry, biology, and nanotechnology. Patent specialists are well aware of the problem associated with the loss of a significant part of the information of photographs after they are automatically processed by the patent office for placement in the patent database.

To reduce the loss of information when copying or scanning in black and white, it is possible to use special pre-processing of photographs. Such processing includes resizing the image in pixels, increasing contrast, gamma correction, and stochastic rasterization. The image size in pixels, if necessary, is changed so that the optical resolution when printing is 300 dpi or is a multiple of 300 dpi. Contrast enhancement and gamma correction are performed by an expert method. The type of stochastic screening is selected experimentally to achieve the best result. If necessary, the processing can be automated.

In fig. Figures 1–4 show an example of image processing for visual assessment of its effectiveness. Fig. 1 is an original photograph containing 256 shades of gray obtained using an electron microscope. Its printout, made on a laser printer with an optical resolution of 600 dpi, was filed as part of the graphic materials of the international patent application. Subsequently, the application materials were routinely processed by the patent office. The processing result obtained from the WIPO patent base is shown in Fig. 2, which clearly shows that as a result of processing by the patent office, the image lost more than 70% of the information visible in the original photograph. This is caused by the use of high-speed copying equipment and high-performance scanners operating in automatic mode and configured, first of all,

Photo from fig. 1, specially prepared for filing with the patent office as part of a patent application, is presented in Fig. 3. The image retained at least 95% of the information in the original photograph, losses of the order of 5% are caused by the narrowing of the dynamic range of the image and are not critical for the perception of information from the illustration. In this form, the illustration can be sent to the Patent Office in the form of a printout in the traditional filing of the application or in the form of a file or part thereof in electronic filing.

In fig. 4 shows the photograph from fig. 3 after scanning in black and white with a resolution of 300 dpi and with other scanner settings set by default. This mode is usually used for scanning text and mixed text-graphic images. In fig. 4 it is clearly seen that despite the binary nature of the image after scanning, it lost no more than 30% of the information in the original photograph and has a much larger information capacity than the photograph in Fig. 2. Similar results were obtained when photocopying the image from Fig. 3 with default copier settings.

It should be noted that patent offices do not have particularly stringent requirements for photographs in patent applications for inventions. The Rospatent Regulation [1] does not contain requirements for the technical characteristics of images in photographs, except for the general requirement for all graphic images regarding their suitability for photographic reproduction with linear reduction in size to 2/3. The requirements for paper photographs in the Patent Instructions to the Eurasian Patent Convention [2] coincide with the requirements of the Rospatent Regulations [1]. At the same time, Appendix No. 2 to the Technical Regulations for the Operation of the EAPO-Online Electronic Exchange System [3] states that the drawings must be in PDF or TIFF format, and documents in both formats must be black and white,

Clause 25 of the WIPO Patent Application Guidelines [4] contains a general requirement for graphic materials: “Drawings and drawings should be in black and white (images with gray tones should be avoided since when scanning or converting them to black and white this information lost). The drawings must be made in clear lines, the thickness of which must be sufficient for good reproduction at a resolution of 300 dpi. "

Paragraph 5.159 of the PCT Guidelines for the Applicant in the international phase [5] provides the following recommendations: “Can photographs be presented instead of a drawing? PCT does not contain any provisions regarding photographs. However, their use is permitted if the depicted object cannot be represented by a drawing (for example, crystal structures). If, in exceptional cases, photographs are submitted, they must be black and white, made on A4 sheets, must meet the requirements for the minimum margins (see paragraph 5.133) and allow their direct reproduction. Neither color photographs nor color drawings are allowed. Photos are stored at the International Bureau as part of the registration copy. ”

A more liberal position is taken by the European Patent Office. Paragraph 1.2 of Chapter IX of Part A of the Guidelines for Examination at the European Patent Office [6] states: “The European Patent Convention has no special provisions regarding photographs. However, if the demonstration of the subject cannot be ensured in the drawing, then the submission of photographs is permitted, provided that they are directly reproducible and meet the requirements that are set for the drawings (for example, paper size, marginal margins, etc.). Color photographs are accepted, but subsequently scanned, printed and made available when checking materials in black and white. If a color image is necessary to distinguish details in a photograph, keep in mind that these details may be lost when converted to black and white for publication and verification of materials. " And in paragraph 5.3 of chapter II of part F of the Guide [6], it is stated: “If the quality of the submitted photographs does not meet the print requirements, then the expert should not request the submission of photographs of better quality, since the risk of violation of Art. 123 (2). In this case, unsatisfactory quality is accepted for playback. "

From the above provisions of regulatory documents of patent offices, it follows that these offices do not intend to take any actions to ensure the safety of information in photographs during their processing. Therefore, the initial presentation of photographic images intended to be used as illustrations in patent applications in the form most appropriate for the format of their subsequent storage would be in the interests of the global patent community, and the proposed special preliminary processing can significantly increase the information capacity of photographic images that subsequently turn out to be in patent databases.

1. Administrative regulations for the execution by the Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks of the state function of organizing the receipt of applications for inventions and their consideration, examination and issuance of patents of the Russian Federation for inventions in the established manner. Rospatent, 2008 - Patents and licenses. 2009. No. 8. P. 17.
2. Patent instruction to the Eurasian Patent Convention. EAPO, 2012.
3. Technical regulations for the operation of the EAPO-online electronic exchange system. EAPO, 2013.
4. Guidelines for information and documentation in the field of industrial property. Standard ST.22. Recommendations for filing patent applications aimed at facilitating optical character recognition (OCR). WIPO, 2008.
5. PCT Guidelines for Applicants - International Phase. WIPO, 2011.
6. Guidelines for Examination in the European Patent Office. EPO, 2012.

This article was originally published in the journal Patent Attorney No. 1, 2014, p. 17-20, and posted here with the kind permission of the publisher.

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