Patents as Genre Jessica Reyman Northern Illinois University Dan Burk University of Minnesota
Rhetorical Analysis of Patents Questions: • What are the persuasive features of patent documents? • What do these features reveal about the social life of patents?
Definition of Genre • Textual Features • Formal aspects shared across a set of texts (e.g., structure, style, content, format, vocabulary) • Social Action of Genres • Composing processes involved in creating those texts (e.g., gathering, analyzing, evaluating information, drafting process) • Reading practices used to interpret the texts (e.g., way reader approaches a text, responds) • Social roles performed by members of the discourse community (e.g., actions that can and cannot be performed by writers and readers)
Textual Features of Patents • Patent number and date • References cited, including prior art • Problem-solution structure • Detailed description of the invention • Claims that define the parameters of the invention • Technical style/jargon, not plain English
Intertextuality of Patents • Novelty: Have we ever seen this exact invention before? • Compare invention with all existing patents • Nonobviousness: Could someone have figured out how to create this invention based on existing knowledge? • Define the appropriate technical community and boundaries of expertise to determine which existing patents to consider
Typified Rhetorical Action of Patents • Patents turn ideas into property • Patents arise from (and contribute to) a discrete, insular community of patent agents • Patents rely on the specialized knowledge to interpret prior art and establish boundaries for new inventions