Two Meanings:

1. Used generally to refer to one party’s claim for compensation in a dispute or court case with another party.

2. In Intellectual Property defines the scope of the exclusive rights given to the owner of a patent, i.e., they set forth the things that the holder of the patent can prohibit others from doing. A patent usually contains several claims set forth as numbered paragraphs. Claims are written in terms of “limitations,” that is to say a claim might give someone the exclusive right to:

  • manufacture vehicles [a limitation because it only covers vehicles and not, for instance, buildings],

  • self-propelled [a second limitation] by

  • an electric motor [third limitation],

  • having three wheels [fourth limitation].

Claims fall into two categories, independent claims, and dependent claims. A dependent claim with reference to the claim above would recite that claim number, i.e., “the invention as set forth in Claim 1” but adding the limitation that the wheels should have rubber treads. Claim limitations are sometimes also called “elements of the claim.” Claims can be multiply dependent, that is to say a claim can be written so that it is dependent on another dependent claim, which is in turn ultimately dependent on an independent claim. The word “element” is sometimes used interchangeably with “limitations.”

Claims can be written in three primary ways, as apparatus claims (also called device claims), method claims, or composition of matter claims; a fourth category, “system claims” usually refers to an apparatus in the context of a larger system. A subcategory of claims also exists that is in some respects a hybrid of both of first types and either of the two latter types, the product-by-process claim. See All-Elements-Rule.