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.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Word Add-In Now Available to Proofread Directly from Word

We are excited to announce that we now have a Microsoft Word add-in to allow you to use our patent proofreading directly from Word.

 Here is what it looks like:

After you install our add-in, you'll have a ribbon tab for Patent Bots.  In this tab, you select a button for proofreading applications or OA responses to open a side panel.  From the side panel, select one of our proofreading options (e.g., with or without figures).  Proofreading results will then open in your default browser.

This add-in uses the Google hosted version of our services (GCP is for Google Cloud Platform).  We expect to have another add-in for the Amazon version of our services later this week.

Note that the add-in requires a subscription version of Word 2016 or later, and that it doesn't work with non-subscription versions of Word.  This is a limitation of the Word platform.

To install our add in:

  1. Select the Insert tab in the ribbon
  2. Select the Add-Ins button
  3. Select Get Add-Ins
  4. Search for Patent Bots

If you are a firm-wide customer, your IT department can install our add-in for groups of users (see Office 365 Deployment).

A Word add-in allows us to do a lot more, and we have some really cool features in development.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Online demo of Patent Bots

We recorded a demo that we recently did for one of our new customers. If you are a potential customer interested in learning more about Patent Bots or if you are a current customer looking to get up to speed quickly, our demo is the best way to do it.

The demo addresses our three main products in this order:
  1. PatentPlex (patent family trees, prosecution timelines, and PAIR access)
  2. Automated Patent Proofreading -- starts at 2:40
  3. Patent Examiner Statistics -- starts at 23:49

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Patent profanity checking

We've added a new feature to our automated patent proofreading that is humorously referred to as patent "profanity" checking. We don't check for literal profanity, but for words that may unduly limit your invention.

For example, profane words include "required," "necessary," and "must." We also flag words that some attorneys prefer to avoid in patent applications, such as "invention" or "embodiment." Here is an example of the results in our new profanity tab:
You can see a list of "profane" words that we found in the patent application and a count of the number of times they appear. This is followed by the text of the patent application where each of the profane words is highlighted in yellow.

Each of the profane words has a checkbox associated with it, and if you uncheck the box, we will no longer highlight that word. This allows you to focus on the words that are important to you. For convenience, we also have two buttons that uncheck and check all the words.