Thursday, 6 January 2011

Patent applicants and professional representation

The inventor's dream: a pile of profits
The inventor's nightmare: paying my professional representative
Earlier today I posted a piece, "Unrepresented patent applicants: a little thought", on the IPKat weblog here.  Having done so, it occurred to me that there might be quite a few readers of this weblog who don't spend their hours gaily filing away on behalf on cash-comfy multinationals but who have to advise patent applicants with limited resources as to how to deploy their money and find the happy balance between saving money and actually getting a patent granted. They may therefore be better qualified to pass comment.

Readers' thoughts on my IPKat post are greatly welcomed, whether posted there or here.


  1. Comment added here since the CAPCHA on IPKat isn't appearing for me for some reason. I work for a "free advice" provider (who do not ever advice people to try to file an application without representation or professional drafting) and from my experience:

    The cost of legal representation is a huge deterrent to many people who come to us wanting to file patents. Many cannot afford it at all and many others are outraged at the fees and think that they should as a matter of basic justice be able to get a patent on their idea with no or minimal financial outlay, or to have some government grant pay the fees for them.

    In our experience while patent attorneys offer pro bono sessions to discuss whether ideas are in principle patentable, and how the system works, nobody will do anything on the scale of drafting a patent application without payment.

    But on the other hand many people who come to us saying that they want to make patent applications do not actually have viable ideas and believe (probably because of the wilder rhetoric from some US IP-maximalists and anti-IP people alike) that they can simply put forward the concept for some vague product concept that they have no idea how to technologically achieve and then get paid huge sums of money by anyone who actually commercialises the concept.

  2. One of the problems is that there are two patent attorney professions. The big one deals with inventions created in industry and coming in from abroad. This is profitable. The other one, sometimes practised by trainees in the same firm, serves the requirements of the penniless inventor. I suspect that it is this section of society that anonymous of three o'clock sees and I am grateful to him or her. The well-established business model for direct clients is to subsidise a draft and then fleece the client on the service charge for filing the PCT and then again on its nationalisation. Even this is too high risk for doubtful inventions where PCT funding may not be available so something has to be recovered at the filing stage. The best I've been able to come up with is deferring fees and instalment plans. I have a notional interest in one or two patents but it's not a great model as I cannot contribute significantly to the business plan, especially if there is no management team in place and just an inventor. I haven't made a penny on any of those so-called investments so I'm not recommending that model (yet).
    The BL Business and IP Centre is a great resource but essentially we need greater help in getting inventors into business teams before they develop their patent strategies. Too many think that a patent is going to be the answer to making them rich. It will never be. Note even if patent agents were prepared to work for free. Patent agents are prepared to share risk but they are not blind fools.
    The US style grace period is hugely valuable to US entrepreneurs as it prevents them dashing to the patent office before they have done anything else in terms of evaluating their idea. can we incorporate that in this "crap" patent?

  3. The mention of the US grace period is spot-on. But is it a coincidence, that in the land of the grace period specifications are inordinately long? We are told that patent acquisition in Europe is hugely more expensive than in the USA. I'm not sure about that. I'm thinking that the dog should be wagging the tail, and not vice versa. I'm thinking that the Paris year ought to be delivering for us all that the one year grace period purports to deliver. With commonsense handling of the Paris "same invention" criterion can we nurture self-filers who get professional help within one year?.