The struggle is real

A post from our student blogger Catie 

We’ve reached the end of the first semester; the half-way mark of our year in the MSPL program. Didn’t I just survive boot camp, maybe, two weeks ago? Time is flying and we have all learned so much in the span of four months. The half-way mark of the MSPL means that the time has come for us to give the ominous ‘Technical Presentation’ for each of our capstone projects. This is the time for each of the MSPL students to ‘flex some muscle’ and show how much we have learned over this first semester.

The technical presentation is a culmination of our understanding of the technology and science behind the invention, what we have found in our semester-long prior art search, and the accuracy and completeness of the claims that we have drafted, all to produce the final educated opinion of whether or not the invention is patentable. An entire semester’s worth of work must be crammed into a two-hour presentation, which explains why this endeavor to prove what we have learned and accomplished is so “ominous”. This two-hour presentation is formally presented to our inventors, the MSPL program director, and our advisor with the Technology Transfer Office at Notre Dame. As you could probably imagine, this little factor can be incredibly intimidating. Not only do we have to sufficiently prove that our work over the past semester is steering us in the right direction of a viable patent application, but we are demonstrating our knowledge to individuals who are experts on either the technology or patent law side of the presentation content. Therefore, it’s pivotal that we master a complete understanding of what we are talking about for both sides.

There is no sugar-coating it: all of the work that goes into this presentation is incredibly stressful. We are nascent patent agents who are suddenly thrown into the task of synthesizing, streamlining, and coherently teaching everything that there is to know about the patentability of our capstone project’s invention. Each of us has faced a road bump or two during this process and has struggled to either understand the technology of the project or to identify which patent laws may be likely to inhibit the inventor from obtaining a patent. This process is a struggle at times, but we are here in the MSPL program at Notre Dame to embrace that struggle and to learn from it.

This post may have been really discouraging to prospective students or patent agents up to this point, but I want to be clear that although this process has been difficult, I can’t think of anything that I would have wanted to change about it. Although getting up and giving such a formal presentation in front of so many professionals is daunting, I am bursting with the excitement of sharing what I have found regarding this invention and its future!

I have invested so much time and effort into my capstone project that it has basically become like my baby. I find myself getting defensive of the technology whenever I receive criticism of my presentation and findings, even when the target of the criticism is out of my hands.  I often have to catch myself from saying ‘our invention’ instead of ‘the invention’, because quite frankly, I had nothing to do with the conception of the idea. Nonetheless, I take a lot of pride in the research that I’ve done regarding the comprehension and patentability of the invention, to the point where I care about it like an inventor would. Not to mention, I am working with wonderful inventors who have been nothing but patient and courteous when I’ve asked to meet with them on short notice, asked them to describe for me the same concept for the third time, and pulled them away from their research to ask a few questions. At this point, I want nothing more than to see their invention thrive as a patent, regardless of the fact that my name won’t be on it. To conclude: Yes, this process has been difficult and anxiety-inducing at times, but I am so glad to be part of this project and to be playing this role in its development and future!


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