Thursday, 6 February 2014

Starting to work as a patent expert? See what the EPO thinks of you

Attracted by a Tweet from the European Patent Office (EPO), cut-and-pasted here,
If you're just starting to work as a patent expert you might want to learn about these basic concepts:
this blogger was intrigued by the sort of concepts that someone starting to work as a patent expert might want to learn. The condensed URL in the Tweet resolved to a page on the EPO website at http://www.epo.org/searching/essentials/about.html which conveyed, among other things, the following information:
  • Avoid infringing other people’s patent rights
    Before you put a new product on the market or offer a new service, you need to make sure that you will not be infringing someone else’s patent. Patent information will help you here, too.
Yes, well, I suppose it might do just that, given a chance.  But if we are honest about it, this basic concept is not as helpful as one might like it to be.  Business start-ups, novices and people who believe that there is a one-to-one correlation between searchable patent information and things that will infringe other people's patent rights are perpetually surprised by the fact that, at any given time, there are a lot of patent applications that have been filed but not yet published -- and which are not therefore easy to access, even in these days of WikiLeaks and electronic surveillance.  Avoiding infringing other people's patent rights is thus a bit like avoiding things that drop on to your head from a great height: you are sometimes quite unaware of them till they hit you.

Ideal for drafting patents?
An even bigger surprise comes when anyone putting a new product or service on the market (or their professional advisor) finds some patent information that is available and relevant.  In an ideal world the claims and specification would be as concise, clear and simple as if they had been drafted by Dr Seuss. Without wishing to generalise, it seems to me that this is not a frequent occurrence. Moreover, in that same ideal world, there is a one-to-one correspondence between any earlier device or process and that which our innovator wishes to take to market. Again, this is not normally so, especially in an era in which we talk of the internet of things and practically every new gadget is also a computer -- or at least tells you what to do.

Now here's a challenge for readers.  Taking the rubric above
  • Avoid infringing other people’s patent rights
what words might you more usefully substitute for the bit that goes
Before you put a new product on the market or offer a new service, you need to make sure that you will not be infringing someone else’s patent. Patent information will help you here, too.
See if you can manage it in 186 characters (the length of the advice above) or less.

1 comment:

patently said...

If I may, I shall mark myself out as a genuine patent attorney, and suggest that your last line should be

"See if you can manage it in 186 characters (the length of the advice above) or fewer."

You have a valid point, I think, but is that not the problem with all simplifications? Something is going to have to get missed out, else you have not simplified the issue - the question is whether the missing bits will come back to bite the reader later, and in IP they often do. It does worry me slightly that it is impossible* to present a simple, uncomplicated guideline about anything in the field of IP that does not have any caveats at all. Have we let the system get too complex?

*usually...