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A specification' is

[a] document that specifies, in a complete, precise, verifiable manner, the requirements, design, behavior, or other characteristics of a system or component and often the procedures for determining whether these provisions have been satisfied.[1]



A specification

for a system is the meeting point between the customer and the builder. It says what the system is supposed to do. This is important to the builder, who must ensure that what the system actually does matches what it is supposed to do. It is equally important to the customer, who must be confident that what the system is supposed to do matches what he wants. It is especially critical to know exactly and completely how a system is supposed to support requirements for security, because any mistake can be exploited by a malicious adversary.[2]

U.S. government contracting[]

A specification is

[a] description of the technical requirements for a material, product, or service. Specifications should state only the government's actual minimum needs and be designed to promote full and open competition, with due regard for the nature of the services to be acquired.[3]
[a] document used in development and procurement that describes the technical requirements for items, materials, and services including the procedures by which it will be determined that the requirements have been met. Specifications may be unique to a specific program (program-peculiar) or they may be common to several applications (general in nature).[4]

U.S. patent law[]

The specification is a written description of the invention and the manner and process of making and using it "in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms" as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains to make and use the same," and setting forth the "best mode contemplated by the inventor" (at the time of the application) of carrying out the invention.[5]

The specification shall include one or more claims, each of which particularly points out and distinctly claims the subject matter which the applicant regards as his or her invention. The claims represent the metes and bounds of the property to be protected. As in real property, the claims stake out the patent holder's territory, and any encroachment on that territory constitutes patent infringement.[6]


  1. NIST Special Publication 800-160, at B-12; IEEE Std 610.12-1990.
  2. Computers at Risk: Safe Computing in the Information Age, at 75.
  3. NIST Special Publication 800-4, App. D, Glossary.
  4. Defense Acquisition University, Glossary, at B-170 (13th ed. Nov. 2009) (full-text).
  5. 35 U.S.C. §112.
  6. Id.

See also[]