Patent specifications should follow the formality requirements determined by the Commissioner of Patents. Many of the formality requirements are summarised below. Some matters related to terminology, signs, and scandalous matters have been omitted.
If you follow these guidelines, your specification should meet Australian requirements as well as the requirements for PCT applications and many other overseas Patent Offices. If you are in doubt about these requirements provided in this guide, you should consult the instrument directly. Alternatively, you should consider contacting an IP professional.
Guidance for the preparation and filing of international applications under the PCT (including using the PCT-safe software) is available from the international application process.
Preparing the specification, abstract and drawings
The following requirements for page layout, margins and fonts apply to the pages of the description, claims, abstract and drawings unless otherwise indicated.
- The size of the sheets must be A4 (21cm x 29.7cm).
- Landscape orientation must not be used unless there are drawings, tables, chemical or mathematical formulae that would not fit in a portrait orientation.
- Pages must be printed on one side.
- Pages of a specification (except the drawings) must be sequentially numbered beginning with "1" on the first page of the description.
- Page numbers must be centred at the top of each page and should be located 0.5cm from the margin (See Appendix I).
- Drawing pages should be numbered using the format 1/n, 2/n...n/n (where "n" is the total number of drawing sheets)
- Paragraphs in a specification should be sequentially numbered from the first paragraph of the description, contained within brackets beginning with "". See Appendix II for an example of description page.
- Paragraphs should be left aligned. Each paragraph number should align to the first line of each paragraph. See Appendix II for an example of a description page.
- The space between the paragraphs should be at least twice the intra paragraph line spacing.
- Line numbering should not be used.
- All pages should contain only one direction of text.
- Text must be set at 1 1/2 line spacing.
- Handwritten text paragraphs or annotations should not be used.
- All characters should be a solid dark colour on a white background.
Each sheet of Abstract, description and claims must have the left hand margin set at least at 2.5 cm and all other margins set at least at 2cm (see Appendix I).
Each sheet of drawing must have the top and the left margins set at least at 2.5 cm, right margin set at least at 1.5 cm and bottom margin set at least at 1cm.
All text must be presented in letters the capitals of which are not less than 0.21 cm high, in a dark colour and be indelible. As a guide, a minimum font size of 12 points is acceptable.
The fonts should preferably be in solid black.
The preferred fonts are:
- Mono spaced family: OCR-B, Courier New, Free Mono
- Serif family: ITC Officina Serif, Times New Roman, Free Times
- Sans serif family: Verdana, ITC Officina Sans, Arial, Helvetica, DejaVu Sans
Narrow and cursive fonts should not be used.
Bold and italic styles, and underlined text should not be used.
The list below shows the titles, sub-titles and order that should be used within the description. The titles in bold should be included in the application. If due to the nature of the invention, the section titles are not suitable, alternative titles may be used.
- Title of Invention or Title
- Technical Field or Field
- Background Art or Background
- Summary of Invention or Summary
- Technical Problem
- Solution to Problem
- Advantageous Effects of Invention
- Brief Description of Drawings (if applicable)
- Description of Embodiments
- Industrial Applicability
- Reference Signs List (If applicable)
- Reference to Deposited Biological Material (if applicable)
- Nucleotide and/or amino acid sequence listing (if applicable)
- Citation List (if applicable)
- Patent Literature (If applicable)
- Non-Patent Literature (If applicable)
Paragraphs should be left aligned. Each paragraph number should align to the first line of each paragraph. See Appendix II for an example of a description page.
Description must not include drawings but may include chemical or mathematical formulae and/or tables where necessary.
The section titles and titles within the description should not be numbered.
- Claims must commence on a separate page to the description and follow the description.
- Each claim must be numbered sequentially beginning with "1".
- Each claim number should align to the first line of each claim.
- The first line of text of each claim should be right-indented with respect to the claim number by at least 1cm allowing for a clean separation between the first line of the text of the claim and the claim number (see Appendix III).
- Claims must not include drawings but may include chemical or mathematical formulae and/or tables where necessary.
- Abstract should be between 50-150 words (see Appendix V).
- Abstract must not include drawings but may include chemical or mathematical formulae and/or tables where necessary.
- Abstract page should not be numbered and should follow the claims.
- Drawings must commence on a separate page after the abstract.
- Images and drawings must be executed in durable, dense, dark, uniformly thick and well defined, lines and strokes without colouring.
- Greyscale images should not be used as information is lost when scanning them or converting them to black and white.
- Each drawing or figure should be numbered separately and labelled by a sign to indicate that it is a drawing (see Appendix IV).
- Drawing pages must be numbered showing the page number and total page numbers for example 1/2, 2/2.
- Drawings must not be included in the description, claims or abstract.
- Drawings must not contain a frame surrounding the drawings.
- A drawing must not include text, other than a word or words necessary to the understanding the drawing.
Tables and formulae
- Tables, chemical formulae and mathematical formulae should be separated from text paragraphs (see Appendices VI to VIII).
- Tables, chemical formulae and mathematical formulae should be separated above and below text paragraphs by a clear space of at least 1 cm across the width of the page.
- Tables should contain one direction of text
- Tables should have borders. The borders should be solid lines having a minimum thickness of 1.5 points.
- Each Table, formula or mathematical equation should be labelled by a sign to indicate that it is a table, formula or equation i.e. Fig. 1, Table 1, Math. 1, Chem. 1, Formula 1, Equation 1 or Compound 1.
Nucleotide and/or amino acid sequence listings
When biological sequence data is disclosed in a patent application, an electronic version of the data, called a sequence listing, must accompany the application. Biological sequence data, nucleotide and/or amino acid sequence listings should be submitted with the format that is consistent with that of PCT Administrative Instruction Annex C.
From 1 July 2022, IP Australia will be adopting WIPO Standard ST.26. The full description and definition of WIPO ST.26 is available on the WIPO website. It applies to all patent applications which include sequence listings of:
• any nucleic acid sequences (DNA, RNA) having ten or more fully defined residues, and
• any peptide (including cyclic peptides) sequences having four or more fully defined residues
The standard sets out that applications which disclose nucleotide and/or amino acid sequences must be compliant with WIPO Standard ST.26, submitted electronically and in XML format. This new standard will supersede the current WIPO Standard ST.25.
To help patent applicants and filers to comply with WIPO Standard ST.26, WIPO has made available the WIPO Sequence tool for applicants.
Amending your application
There are a number of formalities to follow when making amendments to your application:
- Amendments to the patent request and specification (including drawings) must be made by means of substituting one page or document for another page or document. Amendments specifying deletions and/or insertions by page and line numbering or otherwise are not permitted.
- A statement of proposed amendment on a separate sheet or sheets is also required. This must include the application number and an itemised list of the amendments proposed, numbered consecutively. The consecutive numbering must continue in any further statements filed for the application to ensure that amendments can be clearly identified.
- For amendments to the specification, an additional copy of each substitute page marked to indicate the nature and location of the proposed amendments is required. It should not merely indicate that the page is new or substituted unless it is impractical to indicate where each change has been made to the page.
Amendments made to description
- Where amendments require new paragraphs to be inserted, then the new paragraphs should be allocated the same number as the preceding paragraph followed by an alphabet starting with letter "a". For example, if two new paragraphs are inserted between paragraphs  and  then the new paragraph numbering between paragraphs  and  should be [0001a] and [0001b] (see Appendix II-A).
- Where amendments require paragraphs to be deleted and the remaining paragraphs are not renumbered, then a comment stating, "paragraphs [number/s] intentionally deleted" should be placed in place of those deleted paragraphs. For example, if two paragraphs after paragraph  are to be deleted then the new paragraph numbering should be , [paragraphs 0002-0003 intentionally deleted],  (see Appendix II-B). Where additional pages are required because of amendments, then additional pages should be allocated the same Arabic numeral number as the preceding page followed by an alphabet starting with letter (a). For example 1a, 1b, 1c etc. If a page is deleted and the remaining pages are not renumbered, then a blank page with a statement "page intentionally left blank" should be inserted in place of the deleted page.
Amendments made to claim/s
Where amendments add or delete one or more claims, claim numbers and page numbers should be re-numbered consecutively.
Amendments made to drawing/s
Where amendments add or delete one or more drawings, the drawing numbers and page numbers should be re-numbered consecutively.
- Appendix I-A: Margins of description, claims & abstract page PDF
- Appendix I-B: Margins of drawings & figures page PDF
- Appendix II: Example of description PDF
- Appendix II-A: Example of amendments to description (Addition of paragraphs) PDF
- Appendix II-B: Example of amendments to description (Deletion of paragraphs) PDF
- Appendix III: Example of claims PDF
- Appendix IV: Example of drawings PDF
- Appendix V: Example of abstract PDF
- Appendix VI: Example of description page with chemical formulae PDF
- Appendix VII: Example of description page with mathematical formulae PDF
- Appendix VIII: Example of description page with table PDF