Amanda D. Francoeur, firstname.lastname@example.org
A new online patent application drafting program may provide inventors with an easy-to-use application developer that automates much of the process.
Professional patent filers and inventors can now set up their applications quickly in an application skeleton that organizes and associates claim terms, part numbers and drawings. The program, called TeamPatent, enhances productivity and quality by reducing errors, by reducing the cost of employing an attorney to assess the finished application and by eliminating the need for a draftsman to interpret the drawings.
Formulated in 2005 by Rocky Kahn, an experienced patent filer, the system was made available to the public in April. Kahn, who heads TeamPatent LLC, has written 23 patents, including a modern optical mouse for a handheld solid-state scanner. He believes that the program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, is due for an easier and updated service provider that will help when applying for a patent.
“While filing patent applications using MSWord and a drawing program such as Visio or Canvas, I’ve found the process incredibly expensive, tedious and archaic,” he said. To overcome these problems, he devised an economical, motivating word processor.
Visitors to TeamPatent LLC’s Web site can examine their patent application before using the company’s drafting program. Presented is a specifications pane (left), which comprises a detailed report of an uploaded drawing of the invention (in this example, a massager). A figure manager pane (top right) shows the actual drawing of the referred description, and a part manager (bottom right) lists each part called out in the drawing. Part references that are valid – having supported and consistent names – are automatically displayed in blue, while invalid terms are in red, notifying the user to rename or renumber the components.
“TeamPatent has streamlined my work flow,” said Barry Rabin, CEO of Sage Technology & Development LLC and a developer of four patents using the system. He said it has allowed him “to focus on the technical aspects of creating a new patent application rather than having to worry about the tedious tasks of formatting the document or worrying about whether claim terms have been properly supported.”
There is no software to be downloaded because the program works entirely online. Clients can create a user name and a password-protected account that keeps all documents secure, and all communication on the server is encrypted. The Web address is www.teampatent.com.
The first step of the process is to either integrate an existing application document into an application skeleton or to build one from scratch on the Web site. Inventors are prompted to include the title of the product, an abstract and summary, any federally sponsored research, prior art, claims, advantages of the product and descriptions of figures.
Images can be uploaded into the system, and a drawing editor enables users to place call-outs – numbered labels to identify specific components – for each individual part. By clicking on a call-out, users can move from a drawing to the part reference located in the text. A part-manager pane, which shows a complete list of all components, allows for easier detection of a component within the text and drawings.
After incorporating the text, the system automatically identifies part and figure references by marking them blue for valid, supported items, or red for invalid, inconsistent items. When a part reference is red, it may mean that two part names conflict – e.g., coil 15 and heater 15 – letting users know that they can rename or renumber one of the references. If both items are the same part – e.g., optical amplifier 15 and amplifier 15 – the user can change the name of one of the items to make them synonymous.
Other facets of the site include a claims outline for easier reading and editing, a figure manager for viewing all drawings and part references, and a preview menu that illustrates what the final application will look like. When the application is completed, inventors can export the file into MSWord or Adobe Acrobat as a pdf version.
Once an inventor has learned how to use it, it can really speed things up, according to Erin-Michael Gill, a former patent examiner and author of the IP management blog e^(ip) at www.gillip.com. “But, it does take some time. You’re not just going to walk into it and use it as a normal text editor.”
Collaborators at work
Once an application has been developed, it’s time for an attorney to review the text, which can be a long and expensive process. Being able to establish inconsistencies or errors and to precisely denote a relationship between a part and the location in which it appears in the claims beforehand enable faster evaluation and lower cost.
Gill said professional patent drafting can cost from $300 to $900 an hour. “The more time that [inventors] spend on tools like TeamPatent, fleshing out their invention, improving the description, carefully mapping it to the drawings and getting their application ready for a patent professional, overall the application should cost significantly less to prepare.”
Inventors will have access to their files the entire time the application is being analyzed, enabling last-minute changes and simultaneous follow-up with collaborators in separate locations. “TeamPatent allows multiple inventors to participate more fully throughout the process,” Gill said.
Kahn plans to extend TeamPatent’s editor for third-party developers, including those who handle academic papers, electronic medical health records, user manuals and software wire frames.
He hopes that TeamPatent will become a vital application processor for inventors around the world, with the US and foreign patent and trademark offices using the site to reduce the time needed to examine patent applications.
“At some point, it will be considered malpractice not to run a patent filing through a system like TeamPatent,” he said.