The first snowfall

snowA post from student blogger Brittany

I woke up this past Saturday morning feeling refreshed and ready to complete my slide deck for my capstone presentation. I have blackout curtains they I keep closed ALL THE TIME because my sleep is very important, so for a change I decided to open them to let a little light into my bedroom. I was blinded by the amount of white I saw. There had been reports of snowfall but it didn’t seem like people were worried but I don’t think they were prepared for the winter wonderland that would greet them as they left the house. Lucky me I didn’t have to leave the house, it was my first Saturday off from work from my second job (LEARN TO SAY NO) so I was able to sit at home all day and work on upcoming assignments. From sun up to sun down it snowed, the weatherman predicted 7-10 inches and I don’t think his calculations were far off.

While I was fortunate enough to not have to leave my house, working on my slide decks for the upcoming capstone presentations was probably just as tumultuous as battling the elements. By the end of my PhD I was a bit of a pro when it came to making PowerPoint presentations but that was because in part I had been adding and tweaking things as I went along and by the end the information was second nature. The goal of the presentation is to convince my capstone mentor that I understand the new technology well enough to write a good claimset while simultaneously educating him on the most crucial aspects of Patent Law and Prosecution.

Despite the work that went into completing the slide deck, I was astounded by how much I had actually learned and retained throughout the semester. It’s crazy to think that just a little over four months ago I had no idea about what it took to be a patent agent, but now I was drafting claims left and right (disclaimer: they may not be the best claims) and holding conversations with my peers and more senior professionals about patent law.


dogA post from student blogger Nicole

Doesn’t the title look like a made up work?  Well believe it or not it’s actually real!  It’s pronounced [flok-suh-naw-suh-nahy-hil-uh-pil-uh-fi-key-shuh n] and it’s one of the longest words in the English language.  It means the estimation of something as valueless.  Well I sure can think of something that’s valueless and it’s this word.  Who would ever use this word in a sentence or write it down.  It’s definitely not worth the 3 minutes it even takes to say it, if you didn’t have the pronunciation already at hand, or the amount of spelling errors just to write it.

But enough about this unnecessarily long word.  I just figured it would be a perfect transition into talking about patent law and made up words (in a good way).  Surprisingly there are many made up words when it comes to writing patent applications.  When it comes to describing something, sometimes all of the real words in the dictionary just don’t cut it.  Because of this, the made up words were born.  Here are a few examples that I could come up with off the top of my head.  Therebetween, slidably, hingedly, releasably, removably.  They’re real words but not used correctly as real words.  Regular adverbs just don’t cut it.  Obviously describing a wall locking mechanism that can lock two walls together but also release the lock of the walls, doesn’t work.  So instead it becomes a wall locking mechanism for releasbly locking the walls.  Also describing a member that can slide against a mechanism could be described as the member is slidably movable against a mechanism.  This helps get to the point easier and describe the object in a shorter way that still makes sense.  There are very few times, while reading patent applications that I can remember where the made up words didn’t work.  I have to admit though, I am not a fan of therebetween.  That was why it was one of the few words I could think of.  To me it just sounds awkward and bulky.  But it works for enough people for me to have come across it.  So if you’re good at making up adverbs, or are okay with using them, then patent application drafting is for you!

I think I’m forgetting something…

A post from student blogger Brittany

Sitting in our capstone class and Karen starts spewing deadlines for end of the semester assignments as we greet her with blank stares. My blank stare was due to the fact that unbeknownst to me, I had completely missed an entire aspect of technology regarding one of my capstone projects which meant I had to start from scratch writing a picture claim, my broad claim and my dependent claims. Luckily for me, we have spent so much time discussing drafting claims that I knew the exact approach I would need to take in order to complete all the assignments in a timely fashion.

The aforementioned happened because I had decided to reread the technology disclosure to ensure that I was drafting claims that covered the entire scope of the technology, and then it suddenly became painfully apparent that I was missing an entire claimset. As someone still very new to the field of patent law, I am not surprised that I missed a portion of the new technology. This issue made me realize that I must be be extremely meticulous in my approach to reading technology disclosures and although I am highly educated, I must gather information from the inventor in such a way they I may come across as annoying or lacking knowledge about the background of the disclosed technology. I would hope that this method of gathering essential information from the inventor would allow me to draft the most complete claimset as to appease both the client and the USPTO ( let’s be honest…’s pretty difficult to please those guys).

All in all I’m glad that I was able to identify and have time to correct my mistake in a timely manner because I would hate to get embarrassed at the capstone presentation by Karen and/or my inventor. These things and others will happen but pushing forward and getting as much hands-on experience will be the best way to learn from my mistakes. One of our professors once told us that it takes drafting at least 20 patent applications before you feel comfortable enough to determine whether you are good or bad at this patent stuff so I have a few more to go before I make that decision.

Don’t forget all the parts

Cat_tubA post from student blogger Nicole

There are three important things when dealing with an invention for a patent.  The invention must be nonobvious, novel, and useful.  Before this program I actually thought the only thing you needed to get a patent was a new invention.  Unfortunately I was wrong.  The invention has to be nonobvious, useful, and fit into a statutory category as well.  But what is this nonobvious thing I’m talking about?  How can something be nonobvious?  Well you see, when you have an invention you have to research it to make sure it’s not out there already.  So when you come across two things that when put together create your invention, that means your invention is obvious.  But you were so excited to create this invention! It was so unique in your mind and if it was so obvious then why wasn’t it already invented!   Yeah it doesn’t really make sense.  The world of patent law is an enigma.  But don’t give up too soon because there are patent agents or lawyers out there that will put their blood, sweat, and tears into your invention to find some part of it that can be patented.  Another example of obviousness would be if an existing invention is made with a new material, it would be considered novel but it would also be considered obvious.

Now that you’ve figured out your invention is new and nonobvious, let’s move on to whether or not it’s useful.  It has to be able to function.  So nothing that violates laws of physics is allowed or anything straight up crazy like that Godly powers patent I talked about back in September.  Once you figured out it’s useful you have to determine if it fits into one of the five categories: process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement.  A process is a series of operations and is as simple as it sounds, like the process of bathing your cat without injury.  A machine is a device consisting of a series of fixed or moving parts and could be something like a machine that turns pages of a book for you.  An article of manufacture is a simple invention with few or no moving parts and could be something as simple as a pencil.  A composition of matter is a unique arrangement of items like glue and plastics.  A new and useful improvement would be something like a method of converting a video game controller into a laser pointer.  I think I’d like to get my hands on one of those game controllers.  Well now that everyone has their facts straight, no one should forget all the important things that go into getting a patent.

Trick or treat

halloweenA post from student blogger Nicole

We all love this time of year.  The temperature is dropping but it’s not too cold yet, and our favorite holiday is approaching.  Halloween.  How many of you out there love haunted houses?  The excitement, anxiety, fear.  Who doesn’t love a good scare!  And don’t get me started on trick or treating!  This holiday makes me a kid again.  But this is also the time of year when you realize it’s pretty much November already!  When did this happen? I feel like we just started!

So let me slow things down a bit to compare this great holiday with patent law.  I imagine being a patent agent will be like trick or treating.  You will be working on all kinds of inventions and every now and then you will hit the jackpot and write a patent for a very interesting invention.  Similar to trick or treating you go from house to house looking for candy and you hit the mother lode.  A house giving out the big sized candy bar.  That was the jackpot house.  But I also assume that as a patent agent you will work on inventions and other tasks that you enjoy.  Similar to that one piece of candy that you find way better than any other kind and you love to get it.  But I don’t really know what to expect when I finally start working in the real world.  It will be unpredictable just like a haunted house.

I also see being a patent agent as a type of costume.  When you tell people you’re going to grad school for Patent Law they usually ask how long is the program and you say it’s only a year.  They look at you in disbelief.  “How can you get a law degree in one year?”  And my response is “Well you see, I have an engineering background and the program is a master of science so technically it’s not the usual law degree, and I will become a patent agent verses a patent lawyer.”  They still really have no clue what I’m talking about until I say I will help people get patents without a law degree.  As simple as that.  I receive the more understanding “Ohh, okay” after I tell them that simple sentence.  So this leads me to believe that as a future patent agent I am really just a patent lawyer in disguise; I am a patent lawyer without the law degree.

But back to this time flying by!  I didn’t think about it as much in the beginning of the semester because I was still settling in, but now I know what the teachers were saying.  They called it from the beginning of the semester and now I believe them.  Soon I’ll be writing my last blog and be heading out into the real world before I know it!

Chill out bro, and feel free to skip to the last paragraph

A post from student blogger Josh

My favorite aspect of MSPL is the Capstone project. I’m aware that this may not be a popular opinion, but actually getting a chance to prepare a full patent application in a low-stress, academic environment is a unique opportunity. Despite how enamored I am with the idea of the project itself, there are certain pitfalls. For instance, one can interview inventors and conduct searches, only to eventually find that the project itself may not work out. Unfortunately, this does not mean that you get an “A for effort” and the accompanying plastic trophy, but rather that you have to go back to the drawing board (literally) and start over. After all, you can’t actually get a M.S. without writing a thesis, even if the reason for scrapping said thesis is out of your control.

It’s Oct. 28, which means I’m more than a quarter of the way through the M.S. in Patent Law program. This is about the time when I should be seriously hitting the throttle on my Capstone project. After months of searching, interviewing, and just generally learning, I should be ready to put some serious pen to paper, draft claims, and protect some intellectual property. But alas, poor Yorick, that’s just not happening. Instead, I’m staring down the barrel of soon receiving a new disclosure, and beginning the entire process again.

So guess what I’m not doing? Stressing. This program has so many helpful mentors who want to see its members succeed, and I’m not the first person to run into a serious snag on his Capstone. This means it’s time for me to sit in a hammock, take some chill pills, read a leather bound book, and do what I do best: nothing. I can’t start anew on my thesis until I have a subject, which will not be for another few days. I’m still going to graduate, nobody is going to let me fail (unless I help them), and I get to treat the whole thing as a learning experience. Plus, as a professional I won’t get the luxury of filing one patent application every 9 months, so I may as well learn to write them more quickly now.

To those of you who are having troublesome Capstones: every year, someone runs into an issue with the Capstone project. Patent applications and the ideas behind them are complex. It would be insane to expect the process of writing your first one to be seamless. At least one of the people who reads this will run into a snag of some sort. When you do hit said snag, just keep in contact with your mentors and relax. If you’re here, you’re in good hands. Your stress won’t solve any problems, so just do what you can and let the rest go. You’re here to learn, not to be perfect (and even if you were supposed to be perfect, all you can do is your best, and freaking out won’t help that either). So give it your all. If that doesn’t work out, talk to Karen, have a drink on me, watch some Amy Schumer standup, and try again tomorrow (preferably in that order).