Thursday, June 27, 2019

Patent family trees and prosecution timelines

We've added a new section to our website called PatentPlex to make it easy to get details about any U.S. patent or application.  Our PatentPlex pages include:
  • a patent family tree
  • a timeline of prosecution events including priority, filing, and expiration dates
  • easy access to documents from PAIR
  • direct links to the patent on USPTO (assignments, maintenance fees, etc.) and other sites

Here is an example of a patent family tree (see interactive version on PatentPlex):

Here is an example of a patent timeline (see interactive version on PatentPlex):

Please let us know what other information we should include on our PatentPlex or if you would like more information about our automated patent proofreading or examiner statistics.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Patent advice for startups

In my career, I've seen the patent practice from many angles. I've worked at Amazon, a medium-size law firm, startups, and in my current solo practice, all of my clients are start ups.

Patent attorneys have very different practices, and some of them are not well suited to startups. In this blog post, I give some tips to keep your patent budget in check and avoid unnecessary hassles. There are exceptions to each of my tips below, but they are good general rules for most startups.

File fewer international applications. It is unusual for smaller U.S. companies to have patent disputes in other countries so international applications give you a much lower return on investment. My rough rule of thumb is to file international applications for only the top 5-10% of your patent portfolio. When selecting countries, limit yourself to the most important (i.e., largest) markets.

Also, don't bother with patents in Hong Kong unless you have a good reason to do so. If you have a patent application in Europe or China, it is easy and inexpensive to proceed in Hong Kong, but it just isn't worth it in most cases.

Delay filing international applications until close to the one-year deadline (both PCT and specific countries). Your business priorities may change, and this can help conserve your patent budget and delay expenses.

Track I patent applications are a great way to get a patent more quickly for an extra $2000 filing fee. I've seen notices of allowance just 2-3 months after filing. This is especially helpful for startups who want a patent quickly to aid in getting funding.

For patent law firms, paying high fees does not get you higher quality work. You generally get the best value and quality from a small or medium size patent boutique. Avoid large general practice firms with a small patent team -- they often charge high amounts and do low quality work.

Notarizing inventor signatures is not necessary. Some law firms put notary blocks on all documents to be signed by inventors, but it can be a huge hassle, especially if you don't have an in-house notary public. If you need extra protection, have another person witness the signature.

Don't provide the full address of your inventors to the USPTO. The USPTO requires you to provide (i) the city and state of residence for each inventor and (ii) a mailing address.  You can use the mailing address of the company instead of the home address of the inventor. This prevents inventors from being sent patent-related junk mail. Also, since the company owns the patent, it makes sense for correspondence to go to the company.

I hope you find this helpful.  Let me know if you have any other tips I should add.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Multi cloud support for patent proofreading

Our first iteration of Patent Bots performed patent proofreading using Google Cloud Platform.  We have now extended our proofreading so that you can use Amazon Web Services as well.  When you go to our proofreading page, you will now see a choice of clouds:

If your firm is doing patent work for Google or Amazon then you may prefer to process applications on their cloud, or you may have other reasons for preferring one cloud service over another.

The proofreading results are the same on either cloud.  The only difference is that your patent documents are processed entirely within your selected cloud and then discarded.

We can also set the default cloud on a per-subscription basis.  Please contact us if you would like us to set a default cloud for your subscription.

We'll soon be adding Microsoft Azure as a third option, and we are also looking into on-premise options.  Let us know if we should consider other cloud options as well.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Greatly improved machine learning models for patent proofreading

At Patent Bots, we've always used machine learning models (specifically, neural networks) to proofread your patent documents. Because we are a cloud-based service, we are able to use state-of-the-art machine learning tools to provide the most accurate results.

Our previous machine learning models were trained on normal English, but as you know, patent claims are quite different from normal English. Our previous models worked quite well, but now they work even better.

Our new machine learning models are trained specifically on patent claim language. Our new models thus understand patent claim language much better. We've actually decreased our error rate by more than 50%.  This means you'll have fewer false alarms, and more accurate proofreading than before.

Our new models provide other advantages to further improve our products:
  • We are able to continuously improve proofreading performance.  As we come across errors, we can fix our training data or add more training data to prevent these errors from happening again.
  • We are able to provide new services that depend on machine learning. For example, we are working to predict the art unit that your patent application will be assigned to.
  • We are able to run our services on other platforms (e.g., AWS or Azure) and even allow on-premise solutions.
It is an exciting time to be in legal tech, and we are looking forward to improving your patent practice.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Patent Claim Grammar

As someone who has reviewed more than 10,000 claims and writes software for proofreading patent claims, I wish more attention was paid to claim grammar.

Even well-written claims are very hard to understand. Adding poor grammar to the mix makes claims painful to read and possibly more vulnerable to invalidity arguments in litigation.

Let's start with a couple of questions...

Is a patent claim a sentence?

Nope. It looks like a sentence. After all, it starts with a capital letter and ends with a period. But there is one important thing missing. A patent claim does not ever have a verb.

So what is a patent claim?

Each patent claim is a REALLY long noun. The noun is something like a method, system, or a non-transitory, computer-readable medium. All of the words that come after the noun just provide details of that noun.

Let's take an example:

Thursday, January 31, 2019

5 Types of Patent Examiners – Master, Ideologue, Decider, Negotiator, and Granter

Any patent attorney knows that the behavior of patent examiners can vary greatly.  In this article, I describe 5 different types of patent examiners and suggest prosecution strategies for each to help you get better outcomes for your clients.  For each type, I include details of an actual patent examiner from Patent Bots examiner statistics.

The Master

The Master is a patent examiner with a low grant rate but who is also exceptionally good at his or her job.  Masters are able to find good prior art for just about every patent application that comes across their desk, and they thus have high affirmance rates on appeal.

Here is an example grant rate timeline for a Master:

This grant rate timeline shows the percentage of cases that are allowed (green), pending (yellow), and abandoned (red) at each month after the first office action.  This Master has allowed only 2.5% of applications at 3 years after the first office action and is in the 97th percentile for examiner difficulty across the USPTO.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Easy PAIR Access for Each Examiner's Applications

One useful strategy in responding to office actions is to see what arguments other attorneys have used to convince the patent examiner to allow claims. You can then try to use similar arguments to get claims allowed for your client. To facilitate this strategy, Patent Bots examiner statistics includes a list of recent dispositions for each examiner. Here is an example for one examiner:

Previously, you would use the publication number to find the IFW on the USPTO's PAIR website and then download office actions and responses. We are happy to report that we now do this for you! After each application, there is button to view the PAIR IFW right on the Patent Bots website (and a button to view it on Google Patents). Here is an example of a Patent Bots page with the IFW for a patent application:

The first column has the basic details of the patent application, and the second column has the IFW. By default, we hide some of the things that you probably don't care about, but you can see the entire IFW by using the button there.

In this case, there was a final rejection, the attorney filed after-final response, and the examiner then allowed the claims. If you had a case pending before this examiner, you might want to look at the arguments that attorney used to persuade the examiner to allow your claims.

We plan on expanding upon this in the future. For example, for each office action, we are planning to list the rejections (e.g., 101, 102, 103, or 112) in the table. That way, you can more quickly find successful attorney arguments on the issue you are facing.