Tips and tricks

tipsA post from student blogger Nicole

Throughout the first semester, our Patent Law and Prosecution I teacher would generously provide us with tips for taking the Patent Bar Exam.  Everyone appreciates a helping hand so I’ve decided to share some of the tips today.

Tip 1: One of the most helpful tips I received from the professor was to create a matrix with the question numbers and letters.  I find that this will be very helpful for me when I take the exam.  That way when I come to a question I don’t know, I can eliminate some of the answers I know are wrong and then skip the question and come back to it later.  I’ll already have some of the answers crossed out, and I’ll have a fresher look at the answers left.

Tip 2: Read the questions and answers carefully.  Make sure the question isn’t saying not patentable or not in accordance.  Underline important information or certain words like I just did.  Also be careful with the wording of certain questions.

Tip 3: Don’t just glance at certain parts of the question.  Sometimes a part of the question you think seems irrelevant, might actually be the most important part of the question.

Tip 4: Don’t get caught up in all the dates if one of the questions has several different dates in it.  Sometimes this is to trick you.

Tip 5: Keep a good pace.  You only get 3 minutes and 36 seconds to answer each question.  That may seem like a lot of time, but a bunch of the questions are long with a lot of information in them.  If you have to look up a question, you really have to budget your time.

Tip 6: There are a lot of questions on 35 USC 102 and 35 USC 103.

So on a side note here are some additional little tricks that will help when taking the exam.  When in doubt pick the answer that includes the words “and pay the fee”.  The USPTO loves money.  Also some of the questions are “most correct answer” so they may all sound right, but only one is the most right.  In my opinion this is the worst kind of question.  But anyway, I hope some of these tips will help out and good luck to anyone who is going to take the Patent Bar Exam!

Chess v. checkers

I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off lately between attending my first business plan competition to prepping for interviews. Unfortunately my team didn’t win the competition but I learned so much from the process that it wasn’t as bummed as I thought a loss would make me. Listening to the pitches of all the finalists gave me an opportunity to fill any gaps I was able to discover in the IP Strategy of the business plan of my own team. Despite the judges not having any formal training in the area of patent law, they all asked some amazing questions regarding the patent process and one team was even suggested a litigation strategy due to their overlapping technology with another company. As I sat in the audience listening to the judges’ questions, I realized that I did a great job of understanding the patent drafting and prosecution phases and had I been in the hot seat, I would have surely dominates those questions. You don’t realize how much you learn until you have to actually apply it to a real world scenario. Kudos to my professors for doing an amazing job!

IP strategy is not something that we explicitly learn in the MSPL program but it will definitely play a role in our respective roles as patent professionals. Our Lunch & Learn speaker this past week touched on how the IP strategy approach would be vastly different if one is an in-house patent professional for a startup vs a well established company, and also for representing single clients within a law firm. Knowing when to draft applications with broader or narrower coverage based on the client and their technology is a skill that takes time to acquire.  As a patent professional it’s almost like you have to be able to see the future in regards to your client’s area of technology to keep them relevant. Because most fields of technology are constantly changing, it’s possible to get a patent on something that is all the rave during one year and the next it’s completely obsolete.

As a patent professional, take the extra effort to discuss things beyond the technology at hand to get an understanding of where he or she sees themselves or their company in the upcoming years. That person could potentially be a client with a steady stream of business which every patent professional loves.

I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!

A post from student blogger Nicole

First things first, dates are important when it comes to patent law.  A beginner’s tip: find out all the important dates on the first meeting you ever have with a client.  Know if your client filed a provisional patent, offered their product for sale, or publically disclosed it at a conference or something similar.  Whatever you do, just remember to find out those types of dates.  These become very crucial and you don’t want something like missing a deadline to ruin your chances of getting a patent.

Well now that I got my rant out of the way I’ll tell you about my experience so far with my outside mentor.  The students in this program are given a practicing patent agent or attorney to help us write the specification for our disclosure.  They are basically giving us feedback on each section we write in order to draft a complete patent application.  Not only can we ask for their feedback but we can ask them about their jobs too.  I’ve been able to ask my mentor about his path to becoming a patent attorney and how he’s enjoyed it all these years.  I like hearing everyone’s journeys to becoming patent agents/attorneys.  I’m looking forward to receiving feedback from my mentor throughout the semester so that we can make my application unbreakable.

I also just wanted to throw in how awesome the basketball game was on Saturday.  Notre Dame had a great second half and beat UNC.  It was an extremely exciting game, and I’m glad I was able to go.  For anyone that comes into this program you should really try and go to at least one game.  The tickets are free for students and you just have to sign up when the ticket window opens.  Most of the time it turns into a lottery when a lot of students sign up, but you can get lucky and be picked!  The student section is quite the experience.  There is so much excitement and cheering and fighting Irish spirit!  It’s definitely worth it and you can even get free stuff like a shirt or colorful poms.  Who doesn’t love free stuff!



A post from student blogger Brittany

When learning about correspondence with the PTO, it is very easy to deduce that the Examiner is always in the driver’s seat and the patent practitioner should do anything possible to please him or her in order to get an allowance. There are a few cases however in which the patent practitioner can shift that control, putting the Examiner in the hot seat. For example, when an Examiner rejects claims based on 35 U.S.C103 or requires a restriction/election, it is their responsibility to provide sufficient evidence to support their conclusion, and when they don’t, the patent practitioner can respectfully call them out.

I recently got a homework assignment back from my Patent Prosecution professor and he stated that although I knew I could argue that the Examiner failed to explain his stance on a serious burden, I didn’t have a convincing argument. The professor also stated that it takes a certain level of skill to eloquently disagree with the Examiner resulting in him or her potentially having a change of heart regarding their initial rejection.

The idea of arguing my point, when I know I am correct, reaches further than my future interactions with the USPTO and outside the classroom. People are going to tell you no all the time because to be perfectly honest it’s an easy way out of a lot of situations, however if you really want something it’s your responsibility to persuade them otherwise. Have a great counterargument that makes someone question their initial thought process, simply saying you’re wrong just won’t cut it.  Now don’t get me wrong, some people will tell you no and you’ll know immediately that they mean it, we can’t win them all, but for the ones that you have the slightest chance of coming out as the victor why not nudge them a little.

As I write this post I am heading to Louisville to compete in the Cardinal Challenge. Each team has the burden to convince the judges, whose favorite word is NO, that they have a solid business plan and can combat any questions thrown their way.  I hope I can let you guys know that we won on my next post, but if I don’t then you should already know that we didn’t present a convincing argument.

On brewing and the wizardry of directed readings

A post from student blogger Josh

If you feel sincerely uninspired by your standard coursework, and you’re struggling to find an elective class that suits your fancy, you’re not alone. I’ve reviewed a multitude of course catalogues and found the experience to be like ordering food at your least favorite fancy restaurant; everything is expensive, arduous to consume, and none of it sounds palatable. This is where directed readings come to the rescue. This is the equivalent of saying “screw your fancy food, I’m a Kraft Macaroni, Top Ramen and Miller Light man until I die”, and you get to decide what’s on the menu. In the case of MSPL, you do need your electives to be science courses, so you are limited in that whatever course you want to take does have to be justifiably scientific. You also need to find someone willing to teach whatever topic you decide. You have to select a book, write a syllabus, and just generally create a course with an appropriate workload to be considered for credit. My concoction of choice for the semester is “Commercial Fermentation for Scientists and Engineers”, which has evolved into a surprisingly scientific course.

First of all, it isn’t as though I expected the course to be easy. After all, a directed readings class undergoes scrutiny for approval. Truly easy classes are well established, and can hide underneath the guise of once having been a legitimate challenge or learning experience in some way. As unusual as this may sound, I’ve spent many more hours doing outside classwork for commercial fermentation class than I have all of my other classes this semester combined. It’s difficult to research each lecture and draft a brief presentation every week, especially when the act of actually brewing beer, even from a malt extract (so that I don’t have to mill grain), is a long process. Add in the additional layer that you are looking for perfect consistency between batches, such that changing a single variable for each batch produces a measureable or tastefully notable change in your product, and you actually have a surprisingly difficult endeavor.

What this directed readings course solves, more than anything, is a problem of motivation. I happen to like beer. I like consuming it. I like learning about it. I like making it. I also happen to like the scientific method. I like establishing conclusions based on repeatable fact patterns. As a result, I am actually motivated to put in the extra hours necessary to make this class difficult, and truly learn from it. I can guarantee that I’ll retain more information from my hands on brewing class than I would any course where I had to peruse textbooks and power points, filling out periodic questionnaires. If you’re feeling uninspired by your work, it’s your responsibility to change that. So go do it.

How tall??

skyscrapersA post from student blogger Nicole

So I decided to take a detour from patent law to talk about my tech elective.  As a civil engineer I’ve taken courses in structures, water resources, transportation, etc.  The tech elective I’m currently taking is in the structures branch of civil engineering.  It’s called structural systems, and it is a completely different class than I’ve ever taken that deals with structures.  My teacher is having us look at buildings as a whole rather than analyzing each beam or bolt specifically.  We’re learning how a building as a whole will fail and what factors of the skyscrapers allow them to be so tall.  It’s actually very interesting because I’ve never has a class that was so broad.

What’s even better about the class is all the skyscrapers she’s talked about, such as the tallest or most known skyscrapers in the world.  Some of the known skyscrapers are the John Hancock Building and the Sears Tower in Chicago.  We also talked about the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building in New York.  If you think these buildings are tall then you have to visit the Burj Khalifa in Dubai or the soon-to-be tallest building in the world, Jeddah Tower (Kingdom Tower) in Saudi Arabia.  It is currently under construction and will be about 3,280 feet tall!  I would be freaking out if I went to the top of that building.  It would be an awesome experience, but I hate the ferris wheel so I’m not sure how much I would really enjoy it.  But anyway, they wanted to build it a mile high but there was an issue with the geology of the area so they reduced the height to 3,280 feet (about 0.62 miles).  Let’s put that into perspective.  The Jeddah Tower is about 3,280 feet and the One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) is 1,792 feet.  So the Jeddah Tower is almost twice as tall as the One World Trade Center in New York!  That’s insane!

Is anyone else wondering why the United States hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon yet and tried to have the tallest building in the world?  Well if you’re like me then you didn’t know that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission don’t allow buildings to go over 2,000 feet in the U.S.  The reason is to prevent the structures from being a hazard to air navigation.

I love the saying ‘you learn something new every day’ because I definitely learned something new that day.

Leggo my eggo

A post from student blogger Josh

If you’re anything like most decent Americans, you probably have three things you absolutely cannot stand; these would be your taxes, the New England Patriots, and first dates. Unfortunately, a first face to face interview greatly resembles a first date. You have to talk to someone you’ve never met, make entertaining conversation, answer a series of “get to know you” questions, and not screw up doing so on a level that a second date is also out of the question. However, most people seem to forget the most important bit here, which is to accurately represent yourself. Remember, if the relationship ends up blossoming into something long term, you want to make sure that both parties are being honest. There is still a certain level of necessary censorship that occurs here (for instance, it’s probably a terrible idea to mention that time you ate all the Eggo waffles on an intercontinental flight), but overall you’re looking to present a version of you that is reflective of how you would act in the workplace (so if you’re interviewing to be a pilot for cargo planes delivering Eggo waffles, you might be able to sneak something in there provided you’re not talking directly to HR).

Most of us are not actually able to keep up a façade of flawless professionalism forever. We have facial expressions and moments of inappropriate laughter that will often give away our more human sides. If you’re like me, it’s absolute torture to go for two hours of talking to people without making a single joke. So tell the jokes, get the laughs, and be yourself. Remember, the person sitting across from you is human too, and she/he likely isn’t looking forward to a potentially awkward encounter either.  A good interview feels like a conversation rather than a game show; it’s not really something that you can win, and it shouldn’t just be you answering questions. The experience is just as much about discovering if the firm is a good fit for you as it is about your qualifications. Once people have read your resume and have an idea of your background, what they really want to know is “do I want to see this guy at the water cooler? Am I going to want to punch this person in the face every time I walk by their desk?  Are they going to generally improve my work environment?” So just smile, relax, and don’t be that guy.

Want more tips? Let’s start with the basics. Do your homework. Actually look at the firm’s website. If you get a schedule of people who you’ll be talking to, read their bios. Know a bit about the city where the firm is located. Have a consistent, truthful, interesting, and somewhat concise story ready of how you came across the idea of being a patent agent or attorney. Prepare for the interview exactly as you would a day at work (if you don’t drink coffee, it’s not a good time to start). Dress like the person you want to be, and above all, have a realistic understanding of your abilities and your value to the firm. This last point is often emphasized for salary negotiations, but in many cases this won’t be a component of a first serious interview. We young people tend to suffer from a belief that our degrees and time in school mean that we actually know things, and that we’re going to be good at our jobs the moment we begin them. While you can and should be confident, do not let this border on arrogance. Emphasize that you are teachable, intelligent, ready to work, and an excellent investment in the future of the firm (if you’re not any of those things, you probably won’t see much success in this field). So please, don’t stress too much about interviews. I understand the nerves, I’ve had plenty lately. But if you’re reading this, I have full faith in your abilities, so just be yourself and kick some ass.

The business of patents

A post from our student blogger Brittany

So if you all remember from last semester I stated that I am a member of the business team sponsored by the Office of Technology Transfer. Although the team met several times last semester to hash out the outline for the business plan and pitch deck, things have gotten real this semester or as our mentor likes to say “forealzies”.

Initially I didn’t know if I should join the team because I was unsure of the time committed and how it would affect my MSPL responsibilities but I sure am glad I decided in favor of the team. I’ve been exposed to numerous opportunities that although may not seem directly related to my studies in the MSPL program have significantly enhanced my understanding of the technology. Learning how an idea develops from conception to becoming the foundational technology for a startup company is absolutely amazing.

Despite the long hours….very long hours….required to draft a thorough business plan that is not only accurate but comprehensible for the judges, it has been a rewarding process. Working with my peers that are experts in the areas of business development, finance and accounting, has given me the privilege to learn about things well beyond my scientific bubble. We were all so excited when our team was accepted to the finals for the Cardinal Challenge in Louisville and it definitely gave us that boost of confidence we needed to start this competition season off strong.

If you’re interested in joining the MSPL program definitely ask if any of your research faculty is interested in using their technology to start a company and if so I would highly suggest jumping into the business plan competition circuit. It is an invaluable learning process that would definitely be helpful if you decide to start your patent career at a startup company.


BrrrA post from student blogger Nicole

First off I just need to say how cold it is here.  It was six degrees the other day and my weather app said it felt like negative eleven.  Negative eleven degrees!  That’s crazy talk.  My skin can’t handle negative temperatures and riding my bike to class definitely makes it worse!  As you can see from the picture, that is what I wear on my way to class.  I probably look like I’m stealing my bike when I go to unlock it from the bike rack.  I use to think that twenty degrees was cold, but I was dead wrong.  But enough about me complaining about the weather.  Classes are going great so far.  I like my schedule this semester and the teachers are great, kudos to Karen for picking these teachers for the program this semester as well as last semester.

Nicole_BundledI decided to talk about our patent prosecution class today.  I find it very interesting.  So far we’ve had an assignment where we had to find information on a couple patents and another assignment where we had to find certain forms to fill out as well as write a response to a notice.  The forms will help us get acquainted with which ones are important to use and when to use them.  An example of one of the forms we use is a petition for extension of time.  This just allows you to request more time to submit a response to a notice, but be careful because you only get a certain amount of months of extension before it’s not possible anymore and you abandon the application.  Also there’s a fee every time you need to use one of these forms.  The patent office loves money.  A response to a notice is pretty much what it sounds like.  You receive a notice and it will tell you if there is something missing, needs to be added, etc., to the application and you reply to it with what you need to add or change.  There are many types of notices that can be given out, but it is best to try and avoid getting them because they take up unnecessary time if it’s something insignificant that you left out.  An example of that would be if the margins are the wrong size when you submit an application.  It seems a little silly if you ask me, but I’m very glad we have this class because it’ll be better to mess up here rather than in the real world.   I have a feeling that this prosecution class will be very helpful with my future job.