Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Reference label auto-completions

We've added a new feature to the Patent Bots Ref Label Tracker to help you draft your patent applications more efficiently.

As a reminder, our Ref Label Tracker provides you with an always up to date list of the reference labels in your patent application.  As you are drafting, if you forget what label you need, you just glance over to quickly find it.

We now provide shortcuts to help you type your reference labels more quickly.  For example, you might need to type "voice collection system 100" more than a dozen times while drafting your patent application.

To save you time, you can now type:

The //100

and we will automatically convert it to:

The voice collection system 100

We will also automatically handle capitalization for you so if you start a sentence with:


we will automatically convert it to

Voice collection system 100

where it starts with a capital letter.

We hope you find this useful, and please let us know what other features you would like to see in our Ref Label Tracker or other products.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Does my outside patent counsel care about me?

As in-house counsel, your priorities are to develop a high quality patent portfolio for your company while staying within the company's IP budget.

By contrast, the priority of outside counsel is more closely tied to basic economics. A law firm desires to maximize its profits, but higher quality work at a lower price may reduce profits.

As in-house counsel, it is important to take actions to ensure that your outside counsel is taking care to do high quality work.  This is especially the case with fixed-fee billing where there are higher incentives for law firms to cut corners.

One way to get higher quality work from your outside counsel is to carefully review all of their patent applications and office action responses.  But, this is quite time consuming and it is their job not yours to do that.

Fortunately, there are easier ways to make sure that your outside counsel provides high quality work, and in this blog post we provide some tips.

Use automated patent proofreading

Many issued patents have errors in the claims (even after certificates of correction). Your patents are valuable, and outside counsel is expensive. Issued patents should not have errors.

It is tedious work to remove errors from patents claims, but automated patent proofreading tools like Patent Bots make it much easier to do so. You can use Patent Bots proofreading to see in seconds whether or not your patent drafts have errors in them.

You can also require outside counsel to use automated patent proofreading tools and provide you with a proofreading report for each patent application and office action response.

Outside counsel billing rates are hundreds of dollars an hour. Demanding use of a tool that costs $34/month to obtain higher quality patents is an eminently reasonable request.  Automated proofreading also makes outside counsel more efficient so that they can spend more time adding substantive value.

Use patent examiner statistics

Knowing your patent examiner will allow you to get stronger patents and also get them faster. Patent examiner statistics allow your outside counsel to:
  • avoid unnecessary amendments to obtain broader patents,
  • make better decisions regarding if and when to appeal,
  • predict appeal outcomes, and
  • make better decisions regarding abandonment of applications, especially for applications in business method and other difficult art units.
Patent Bots provides some patent examiner statistics for free and paid statistics are inexpensive.  These statistics allow you and your outside counsel to make better strategic decisions during prosecution.

Impose guidelines for prosecution strategy

Keeping an eye on prosecution strategy will also help you get better outcomes. There are a few easy things you can do:
  • Require examiner interviews for almost every office action (unless you have an examiner like this one whose grant rate goes down with an interview).  Interviews allow examiners and attorneys to overcome misunderstandings in written arguments and reach agreements more quickly.
  • Don't allow extensions for office action responses and certainly require outside counsel to pay extension fees when there are extensions.
  • Review claim amendments to make sure they are worthwhile. Examiners will indicate that very narrow claims are allowable, and some outside counsel are too eager to accept such narrow claims.
  • Keep an eye on the number of RCEs being filed.  Too many RCEs may indicate limited novelty, and it may be better to abandon than to throw good money after bad.
By doing these things, you can greatly increase the quality of work done by your outside patent counsel and get better results for your company.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Office Action Rejection Data

At Patent Bots, we provide patent examiner statistics to help patent attorneys get better outcomes for their clients during prosecution. One part of our statistics is the Recent Dispositions tab where you can see a list of recent allowed and abandoned cases for your patent examiner.

I find it particularly helpful to have easy access to recent patents allowed by my examiner. If I am having trouble persuading an examiner to allow claims, I look at recently allowed patents by that examiner and review the successful arguments made there. This way, I can learn from other patent attorneys and hopefully get a better outcome for my client.

We've added a new feature to make this process even easier. Our Recent Dispositions tab now includes a list of office actions and the rejections made in each office action:

With our office action rejection details, you can quickly find the arguments you need. If your only rejection is 101, then skip the first patent above and go to the second one. Further, for a particular patent, some office actions may have 101 rejections and others may not and can go directly to the ones that do.

As a bonus, the View button on each row takes you directly to our PatentPlex page for the patent that includes the image file wrapper. When we show you the image file wrapper, we again show you the list of rejections for each office action:

As another bonus, we've made our image file wrapper retrieval much faster and more robust. It now works even when PAIR is not working.  It is More Reliable than PAIR!TM

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Impact of COVID-19 on the patent industry

In addition to the serious health dangers of COVID-19, many businesses are greatly impacted. My heart goes out to the many people who have suddenly lost their jobs or income, such restaurant workers and others providing services to the general public.

My initial thoughts of the impact on the patent industry (by this I mean people drafting and prosecuting patents) was that it would not have a significant impact.  It seems fairly easy for patent attorneys and agents and their staff to work at home.  All you need is a computer at home and a phone.

Turns out I was quite wrong.  To get a better understanding, I reviewed Patent Bots usage statistics.  Here is a summary:

  • through March 7: minimal, if any, decline from expected usage
  • March 8-14: 23% decline from expected usage
  • March 15-21: 27% decline from expected usage
Although we are a small company and haven't attempted a rigorous statistical analysis (e.g., accounting for school vacation weeks), the numbers here shows a large drop in activity in the patent industry.

There are some obvious reasons for the drop:
  • the overhead of getting a home office set up,
  • parents needing to provide additional care for kids who are out of school, and
  • slow down in activity from clients for the above reasons or because of a slow down in their own businesses.
It remains to be seen whether this is a temporary decline and that patent activity gets mostly back to normal soon, or if this is an ongoing decline that will last as long as COVID-19 remains a danger.

Hoping that you are all healthy and not too impacted by all the disruptions.  Stay safe!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Patent family trees now include foreign patents

Our PatentPlex patent family trees have been a very popular feature of our tools, and we are excited to announce several improvements to make our patent family trees even more useful:
  • Patent family trees now include non-US patents.
  • The entire family is shown (previously limited to 30 patents).
  • We added the ability to zoom and pan to make it easier to view family trees for large families.
  • A pop-out option that you can use with your browser in full-screen mode to make it easier to view large families.
Here is an example of a smaller patent family for US patent 10,152,973:

Here is an example of a more complicated patent family for US patent 10,533,013:

As a practitioner, I have found it difficult to quickly understand the status of larger patent families and in particular the non-US patents in the families.  With our family trees you will find this much easier.

Our PatentPlex is currently a free product (login required), but in the future we may require a subscription for access.

Please let us know what other features you would like us to add to our family trees.

Monday, January 27, 2020

USTPO Group and Art Unit Predictor

We are excited to announce a new product to help you get better outcomes for your clients! The new product is our Art Unit Predictor. It will process a draft of your patent application and predict which group and art unit your patent application will be assigned to.

As we've posted about before, the grant rate of different art units and examiners can vary greatly. The most difficult art unit is art unit 3689 with a grant rate of 4%, and the easiest art unit is art unit 1661 with a grant rate of 95%. Many patent applications do not fall neatly into a single art unit and could potentially be assigned to different ones. Our Art Unit Predictor will help you guide your application to an art unit that is appropriate for your invention.

In my own practice, I had an invention that was an application of machine learning that was assigned to business method art unit 3689 with a grant rate of 4%. In my opinion, the application did not belong in a business method art unit.

Here are the prediction results for this application as filed:

The predicted art units are all business method art units with low grant rates. The actual assigned art unit for this application was the second one listed above.

Our predictor also tells you the words that were important in making the prediction so that you can edit your claims to target a different art unit. As an experiment, I made the following changes:
  • customer -> user
  • customer service representative -> agent
  • intent -> natural language intent
After making these changes, the predicted groups and art units changed drastically:

Now, none of the predicted art units are business method art units! If I only I had this tool at the time...

Note that our predictions are not always correct, but it is very likely that your application will be assigned to one of the 3 predicted groups and one of the 5 predicted art units.

Our Art Unit Predictor is most effective at helping ensure that your application is assigned to art unit whose technology matches the subject matter of the invention. If your invention truly is a business method, then you will have a hard time getting it assigned elsewhere. But if your application shouldn't be in a business method art unit, then our Art Unit Predictor can help you get better outcomes for your clients.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Our first patent drafting tool: Ref Label Tracker

With our Patent Bots Word add-in, we can now provide you with tools to help you draft your patents in addition to proofreading them.  Our first patent drafting tool is our Ref Label Tracker that tracks your reference labels in real time for easy reference. Here is what it looks like:

When you start the Ref Label Tracker, we immediately extract all your ref labels with the corresponding text.  We'll then continue to update this list automatically as you edit your patent application.  You no longer need to keep your own list or scroll through your Word doc to find the ref label you need.

There are three ways to install our add-in:
  1. Your IT department can install for a group of users or for your whole firm using the Office admin tools.
  2. You can install for yourself from the Microsoft store (Patent Bots GCP and Patent Bots AWS).
  3. You can install for yourself within Word: Insert tab in the ribbon -> Add-ins button -> Get Add-ins-> search for Patent Bots.
The add-ins require any subscription version of Word 2016 or non-subscription Word 2016 version 16.0.4266.1001 or later. 

We are working on additional patent drafting tools to automatically generate portions of your patent, such as:
  • abstracts
  • claim summaries
  • brief description of your figures
Please let us know what other tools you would like to have to assist you with drafting your patent applications and office action responses.