Semiotic Aspects in Patent Interpretation

  • Simone R. N. Reis
  • Andre Reis
  • Jordi Carrabina
  • Pompeu Casanovas


This paper discusses the semiotic dimension of patent interpretation. Patent documents are at the same time disclosure of information (by the inventors to society) and a granting of rights (by society to the inventors). The claim section expresses the granted rights. In this paper, we view the claims as signs that express the granted rights (mental concept). The semantics to interpret the signs is given by the all-elements rule, as pragmatics. The description and drawings sections of the patent document provide metapragmatics in the form of lexicon and syntax to help the understanding the claims as signs that express the granted rights. This semiotic approach for patent interpretation has important practical consequences to the correct structuring of a patent document. We highlight this contribution through an instance of a patent application in which a claim includes examples of use. Examples are not allowed in the claim text, as examples do not describe the invention, but consist of metapragmatics to better understand the invention. In this way, examples consist of metapragmatics and belong to the description section of the patent, which has the goal to facilitate the understanding of claims (by providing the necessary metapragmatics in the form of lexicon and syntax). In the patent application used to highlight our semiotics approach for patent interpretation, the examples initially presented in the claims were rephrased in the final granted patent, significantly reducing the scope of the claim.


Intellectual property Patents Patent interpretation Patent claims All-element rule Venn diagrams Set theory Semiotics Pragmatics Syntax Signs 



André Reis was supported by Brazilian funding agencies CAPES (Grant BEX 0466/15-8) and CNPq (Grant 312086/2016-4). Pompeu Casanovas was supported by Data to Decisions Cooperative Research Centre (D2D CRC, Australia); Meta-Rule of Law (DER2016-78108-P, Spain). Views expressed herein are however not necessarily representative of the views held by the funders.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Law and Technology, Faculty of LawUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Institute of InformaticsUFRGSPorto AlegreBrazil
  3. 3.CephisUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  4. 4.La Trobe Law School, CRC D2D Research CentreLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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