One last look

A post from student blogger Nicole

It’s weird to think that our full patent application is almost due.  Thinking back to the beginning of the semester, all the due dates seemed so far away and now that everything’s been corrected, it’s time to put it all together.  I’ve come to the realization that there were a lot of things I left out or didn’t think to add to the application.  Wording is important in a patent application.  After having my detailed description reviewed by my outside mentor, he pointed out certain words that shouldn’t be used because they might be held against you.  Looking back on them now I understand why.  I have to be more careful when I start writing my own applications.  There were also situations where I didn’t explain something broad enough or I wasn’t consistent with the language I was using, for example, calling it a device in my claims and then renaming it in my detailed description.  Patents are all about consistency.  This used to worry me and make me think that when I’m working for a company, I might leave things out on accident.  But then I think about it again and realize I won’t be alone.  There will be people in my company that will check my work, especially in the beginning when I’m new.

I also have a great deal of comfort from this program.  It has helped me learn and make mistakes now, rather than at my future company.  I think of this program as a trial run that provided real life examples of what it will be like to work in the real world as a patent agent.  Many of the homework assignments such as the office actions or situations we’ve talked about will definitely be utilized while I’m working.  I won’t hesitate to look back on all the assignments to help me with whatever situation I’m in at my job.  The best part about the homework assignments is the feedback I receive from my teachers.  Although it’s disappointing to submit something you thought was really good but the grade was lower than you expected, it’s what helps you learn the most.  I really value the feedback I receive.  It only helps me become more prepared for when I become a patent agent.

What I know now

A post from student blogger Brittany

I knew nothing about patent law at the beginning of the MSPL program, however, now I have a sense of confidence when speaking about patent law to not only my classmates but my peers outside of patent law.  I look at my writings from last semester for various classes and my capstone project wondering what the heck was I thinking when I wrote those things.

Last semester I struggled with determining novelty and non-obviousness not to mention drafting of the claimset when it came to the complex technologies assigned to me. As I apply my knowledge of patent law and prosecution that I’ve gained from the amazing professors in the program and the IP Clinic, I am truly looking at my capstone project with fresh eyes.

Karen told us that as we neared the end of the program we would have learned so much more about being a patent practitioner that we would look at our initial drafts during the first semester with almost a sense of disgust and boy was she right. I have completely revamped my claimset and actually have an entirely new outlook on the technology as a whole which is a great thing in my book. Having a mentoring attorney that has been in the biotech work for years has tremendously helped me understand that what may be appropriate for mechanical technologies may not be applicable to biologics and biotech related technologies.

While I’m thrilled that I’ve come such a long way, the reality is that when I’m no longer in the program and a disclosure comes across my desk I won’t have the luxury of 8 months to draft a complete application.  Some professors in the program have shared occasions when they’ve had less than a day to draft and file an application and as of now that seems not only terrifying but it also sounds a lot like my last day of work (no lol). In all honesty, I welcome the challenges that I know will come when I FINALLY start at a firm.

The X-Patents

Patent1A post from student blogger Nicole

So I stumbled across the “X-Patents” not too long ago.  They sound so secretive and mysterious when you don’t know what they actually are.  You can take a wild guess as to what they might be.  I’ll give you a hint: patents.  So what are they really?  Well they’re actually the patents issued from 1790 to 1836.  The reason behind the unique name is because they burned in a fire leaving only inventors’ copies to reconstruct the collection.  Only 2,600 copies of the patents out of 10,000 have been recovered to date.  I’ve decided to list out some of them just to give a general idea of what was first being patented.

The first patent ever granted by the U.S. was by Samuel Hopkins of Pittsford, Vermont, July 31, 1790.  His invention improved “the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new apparatus and Process.”

The Cotton Gin was invented by Eli Whitney in 1794.  It separated cotton fibers from the plant’s seeds.  The Cotton Gin played an enormous role in the industrial revolution.

Granted to Samual Morey, this patent contains one of the first descriptions of what would become known as an internal combustion engine.  This patent wasn’t discovered until 2004 when it was found along with 13 other X-patents in the Dartmouth College archives.

Samuel Colt patented the revolving gun in 1836.

The first lock was patented in 1836 by Almon Roff.

From the first ever patent signed by President George Washington, to the eight million U.S. patents and counting, the world will continue to invent amazing things.


A post from student blogger Nicole

Recently in our patent prosecution class we read a Disney patent for one of their water slides.  You might be thinking to yourself, what can be patented about a water slide?  At least that’s what came to my mind when our teacher asked us.  Well I’ll help you out. They developed a system at the bottom of the slide to help you comfortably slow down.  The system uses air injection nozzles to lower the density of the water, which helps you slow down more gently as you approach the end.  Otherwise your butt might be bruised the next day if you went down a water slide more than 80 feet tall and smacked into the water at the bottom.  If it wasn’t for this then there wouldn’t be Summit Plummet at Disney’s Blizzard Beach.  New technology helps create new possibilities.

The most exciting part about being a patent agent is going to be seeing all the new technology.  It’ll be intriguing to see what brilliant ideas are being thought of next.  Could you imagine if the company you were working for was brought an idea like an airplane?  And you were the one that was chosen to write the patent for it?  That is something to be proud of.  How could you not want to become a patent agent?  You get a jump start on the new things evolving in this world.  The airplane was patented in 1906 and it was called a flying machine.  It’s funny to think of an airplane being called a flying machine, but back then it was historic and made a difference in the world today.  Nobody knows what’s coming next, but as a patent agent we’ll be one step ahead.

US8746616 3It is interesting to see how much patents have changed.  If you get the chance to look at patents, look at the airplane patent (821,393) from 1906 and an airplane patent (8,746,616) from 2014.  The world is evolving in many ways and these airplane patents are perfect evidence of it.

Are they hiring?

A post from student blogger Brittany

As the end of the program quickly approaches, my priority has been to find a job that I can transition into fairly easily from the program. I couldn’t dare tell my mother that after all of this schooling I don’t have a job and I need to come home until I find one, not to mention we would drive each other crazy.  I’ve been applying to different law firms, companies and search firms since the later part of the first semester with the theory of the early bird gets the worm. Let’s just say I’m still looking for that damn worm.

This has probably one of the most stressful aspects of the program. At least once a day in class I just blurt out “ are they hiring?” because job placement has been an uphill battle even with my PhD. Outside of the direct competition from my classmates, I have to remember that there are people across the US that are vying for the same positions as me.  Initially I told myself I would say yes to whoever gave me an opportunity to get my feet wet in the world of patent law but as the program has progressed I’m pinpointing what I want in my future workplace as it relates to the people, location, reputation of the company, and the opportunity for professional growth.

I’ve interviewed at a few places that comprise the gamut of potential career opportunities for practicing patent law. Each had something unique to offer however I had to evaluate each opportunity based on my immediate and future needs as a young professional. The MSPL program has done an excellent job at introducing us to patent law and prosecution however challenges and obstacles will arise when we get into our respective positions that we didn’t encounter during the program.  My goal is to work in a challenging environment where I can further develop the skills learned in the MSPL program and gain practical experience in all aspects of patent law. So let me get back to filling out these applications…..

The lessons of failure

A post from student blogger Josh

“It’s fine to celebrate success, but more important to heed the lessons of failure.” – Bill Gates

Every profession has its own cult of celebrity personalities that people in the business all know, and patent law is certainly no exception. Since the number of registered patent agents and attorneys in the United States still totals under 76,000 (alive or dead), one benefit of being in such a specialized field is that you might actually get to meet some of these celebrities. This weekend, myself and two other members of the MSPL cohort were fortunate enough to be able to interact with supervisory patent examiners, Patent Trial and Appeal Board judges, the chief IP counsel for Ford Motor Company, and other notables at the inaugural University of Detroit Mercy Patent Drafting Competition.

If you ever get the opportunity to participate in something like this, do it. Not only for the networking potential, but also because you get instant feedback from the people whose job it is to critique, reject, and eventually allow your patent. Instead of being often years removed from when you write an application, you get the chance to see how examiners, judges, and litigators see your work in real time. Additionally, it’s probably best if you don’t actually win.  Use this opportunity to test boundaries, and try claim language that you aren’t necessarily confident in, as opposed to playing it safe and vanilla. You don’t actually learn anything by doing things correctly the first time, so why not shoot for the moon and see where the chips fall? The opportunity to have patent examiners and PTAB judges explain to you why reciting a claim or component of the specification a certain way could hurt your patent is one that is often accomplished after years of practice and dialogue with examiners. We were fortunate enough to see examination of our work, live, without having to wait years between office actions.

Additionally, I hadn’t actually considered becoming an examiner until I got to tour the Detroit satellite patent office this weekend, speak with examiners, and learn about the training and hiring process. Now, I have yet another potential career path at my disposal, and I know who I can contact to help me get there. I am aware that my usual postings on this blog are full of witty banter, because I’m frankly amazing at that. However, this is a topic I’m genuinely serious about. Learn from mistakes, take advantage of opportunities to do so, and never be afraid to ask questions. I even had a PTAB judge shake my hand, and thank me for my honesty when it came to discussing our drafting process. This is someone whose cases I’ve actually read, and certainly not someone I ever thought I’d speak to. Work hard, play harder, and be honest with yourself people. We spend far too much time and energy posturing, pretending as though others actually expect us to be perfect. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to lose a contest in my life, because I acknowledge that the trophy isn’t the important part. Try it sometime, it’s rather liberating.