Step 2) Invention Building Blocks

Now that we’ve set the scene, let’s turn to your invention(s). Yes indeed, an innovative product can very well contain multiple innovative building blocks, and each may turn out to be a patentable invention on its own.

The building blocks we’re digging for can be either structural components, i.e., “things”, or activities, i.e., “ways of doing something”. Some examples:

Examples for structural building blocks:

  • A physical device or system, e.g., a smart home appliance, an interactive touchscreen, a networked computer architecture
  • A virtual entity or system, e.g., a database index, a neural network, a distributed ledger, a data warehouse

Examples of activity building blocks:

  • Controlling a physical system or process, e.g., steering a robot or a production plant
  • Managing the internal functioning of a digital system, e.g., executing search queries in a database system, training a machine-learning model, mapping heterogeneous input data into a common schema
  • Creating an output, e.g., an optimized airfoil shape, a transcript of an audio file, a recommendation to buy a product, a television signal, an optimized task schedule for a CPU
  • Virtualizing a real-world task, e.g., testing virtual airfoils in a virtual wind tunnel, analyzing VHDL designs

Let’s create a 360° overview of all the building blocks of your product. This step is all about information gathering, not yet about prioritizing what is particularly unique or not (we’ll cover that later). That said, try to compile all building blocks that make your product work, not just the innovative ones. It makes sense to give each building block a distinct name, as we will reference them later.

A picture says more than a thousand words

First, create lots of diagrams and copy them into the Word document:

1) One simple block diagram showing, at the highest level possible, (i) the main structural building blocks of your product and its environment, (ii) how they interact, and (iii) who is responsible for what. Example:

2) One simple flowchart, swimlane diagram or state machine showing, at the highest level possible, (i) the activity building blocks of your innovation – think about the main phases in your processing pipeline, (ii) their inputs and outputs, and (iii) who is responsible for what. Example:

3) Additional drawings as needed to drill down into the central structural building blocks and activity building blocks for a complete workable conceptual description of your product and its functionality.

Hand-drawn scribbles or whiteboard snapshots are perfectly fine, if that’s easier for you. If you like to create digital diagrams, they should be black-and-white line drawings, ideally in an editable format like Word or PowerPoint.

Write out the details

Then, write one paragraph for each building block (for all structural and activity building blocks). Describe what it does and how it interacts with its surroundings. If a building block can be implemented in various ways, describe it, and explain which implementation is preferred. For example, an image denoising machine-learning model may be implemented as a CNN or an RNN, and one of these implementations may be better suited than the other.

This can take up a couple of pages. Fill in the ((placeholders)) in section 2 of the Word document. This section will be the main part of the invention description, so take your time.