Compiling a bill of materials (BOM) not only acts as an internal checklist to keep your business and production schedule on track, it also helps in the planning of the patent application process. For businesses involved in manufacturing or production, the good news is you most likely already have a BOM.
Understanding a bill of materials
On the surface, it may seem like the bill of materials is a very detailed and itemized list. But it is even more than that, serving as both a record and manual for your product by providing in one place all of the parts, assemblies, and instructions needed for the product's creation.
It's easier to understand a BOM if you compare it to a recipe for your favorite dish. A recipe usually tells you not only the ingredients you need but also how much, suggestions of where to buy hard-to-find ingredients, the required cookware, and any tips or notes for how to make sure the dish turns out as it should. The bill of materials provides a similar function: without it, someone would not be able to recreate your product.
Information in a BOM includes:
- All the raw materials and parts
- Special tools needed for construction and assembly
- Locations of where to buy or secure the materials and parts
- Details about the quantities required
- Suggestions for substitutions
- Directions to construct, manufacture, or fix the product
The contents and purpose of a BOM differ from department to department. In engineering, a BOM is used to define the design of the finished product. A manufacturing bill of materials is used in the assembly process and includes mention of all parts needed to make the end product. In sales, a BOM outlines the product at the sales stage—not as necessary for the patent submission process but still very relevant in production planning.
BOMs and patent submission
Finalizing your BOM means that your design is all set and ready to go. At this stage, you know exactly which materials or supplies are needed, the quantities, where to get the materials, and how to put it all together—the very information that allows someone with industry-relevant knowledge to recreate and use your design. It just so happens that this information is also required when you file your patent application.
Specifically, the specification section requires you to provide a thorough description of your invention and the process of making it. You also have to provide detailed drawings of your invention. If you have already created a BOM, then you can easily pull this information for use in your patent application.
Having a BOM can also help ensure that you keep your priority filing date. If you ever need to add more details or new information to a patent application that you already filed, the new additions will receive a different priority filing date than the initial application. This matters because the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) follows a first-to-file rule. Having a BOM ready and on hand can prevent the need to go back and add more detail to the patent application later.
A BOM can be invaluable during the patent application process. Whether you're filing for a nonprovisional or provisional patent, it is in your best interest to be as thorough as possible. Leaving out any crucial information can have serious consequences, such as losing your priority filing date with the USPTO.