To search or not to search

A post from our student blogger Nicole

Today I want to tell you about another funny teacher we have; our Patent Searching teacher.  For those of you that don’t know, Patent Searching is about in depth searching for prior patents that may be relevant to the patent you’re working on through multiple databases.  By relevant I mean any patent already published or filed that is similar, but not the same exact thing, to the patent you will be working on.  The teacher is quite funny.  It’s especially funny when he makes up his own lingo, for example, he told us the code on one of the databases was the cuckoo code.  He’s always cracking jokes in class and telling us about his awesome trips, for instance, his trip to Japan for a searching competition.  How awesome is that?  And what was even better was that he brought back a treat for everyone. Green tea kitkats!  It does sound a little strange but they were actually really good!

Now getting into the actual details of the class.  There are multiple databases used in this class to help you search for relevant patents to your capstone project.  All of these databases have their ups and downs, but you will learn what you prefer the most.  As for me and my mouse device, I’m having a bit of trouble searching for any relevant patents.  My biggest problem is the word mouse.  When you search it you get results for a computer mouse rather than lab mice.  This is a perfect example of how literal and difficult these databases can be.  But don’t let that intimidate you because you learn how to fix this problem with the help of this class.  That’s why this class is so important!  There is so much technique that goes into searching that I had no idea about.  It’s quit fascinating to learn about all the little tricks that go into searching.  They become very convenient when you work on your capstone project.  The homework assignments are a huge help as well and don’t be afraid to talk to the teachers because they are very willing to help out!

The teacher likes to end his lectures by asking if anyone has questions and when nobody raises their hand he says so everybody knows everything.  Just another way to make his class laugh.  Like he said a lecture is more memorable with a laugh.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A post from our student blogger Josh

I last submitted to this blog two weeks ago, regarding how classes were progressing thus far and my first impressions of transitioning to life as a Notre Dame student. Since then, we’ve had a number of seminars through our Friday “lunch and learn” program that have enlightened us as to what we could be doing with our future in patent law. We’ve thus far seen presenters from boutique intellectual property law groups, our own legal career services center, and Notre Dame Alumni who work in IP. If your life vaguely resembles mine, then you’re at the point where everyone from your closest friends to your cousin’s dog is incapable of having a conversation with you without asking “what do you want to do with your degree?” Some of us have gotten used to this line of questioning (I had to answer it all the way through undergrad, explaining that not all astrophysicists work with telescopes and not all philosophers are unemployed), but having to decide what in patent law one wants to do involves a new layer of exploration. Thankfully, thus far MSPL has done an excellent job of showing us that there are a variety of ways that one can make use of a skillset involving the analysis, authorship, and prosecution of patents.

For instance, today we had a speaker who discussed what it means to work in the field of patent searching. While we have a class on searching that meets every Tuesday and hear many anecdotes about what it’s like to professionally perform searches, it’s always nice to hear about a given profession from multiple practitioners who work in different places. Patent searches are requisitioned by a variety of groups, from universities to law firms, and from private companies to the patent office itself. Searches are performed for a plethora of reasons, and each search has to be tailored based on the technology itself and what the client desires to do with the results. This may sounds crazy to some of you, but I personally dig the idea of being a professional searcher. Think about it; our generation has been using Google since we were kids. While Google certainly isn’t the only tool in a patent searcher’s arsenal (more of a helpful companion to the databases one would actually use in a professional setting), the basic premise of manipulating a series of search terms in order to produce a handful of useful results is essentially the same. Intellectual property searches are often a key part of the knowledge basis for many decisions in the business world, and the ability to be at the front end of acquiring and presenting such information makes a neat premise for a career.

I only have a limited amount of space here to expound upon the possibilities of what one can do with a MSPL, which is why I’m certain that a few of my future posts will contain other possible career paths for those of you who chose to enroll in this program. Today my mind is on searching (and tomorrow it will likely be on the football game), but future careers as a patent prosecutor, or a research analyst for mergers and acquisitions firms, or any number of other options cross my mind frequently. I have a bio on the website here, which says that I would be interested in being a patent agent focused on mechanical technologies. However, what that patent agent will do, who he will work for, and in what capacity he will work with said mechanical technologies is still quite a mystery. However, this program has continuously shown me that there are a number of possibilities for a professional with a background in intellectual property, and I’m certain I will be able to find one that satisfies my tastes.

Building blocks

StonehengeA post from our student blogger Brittany

This is not your traditional Masters program, our cohort is comprised of several students having educational backgrounds in civil engineering, biology, astrophysics and even a few students with doctorates. I state that not to brag about how educated we are but to say that even with so many educated people in a room, we are ALL new to the field of patent law and are looking to this program to train us to be competent patent practitioners.

Walking into a room with several lanyards laid out and my first thought was “Yes more free stuff” (grad school made me appreciate the freer things in life). To my surprise, we had to write claims for our specific lanyard. Our group spent DAYS describing that darn lanyard to ensure that another group could correctly chose it based on our description. Being able to agree on terms of art or something as simple as deciding between the metric or imperial system to define measurements can be rather difficult. We’ve had a few widgets we’ve had to write claims for and geez is it difficult, but these interactive assignments are providing us the foundation by which to write more elaborate claims for rather complicated inventions.

Patent law building blocks, including claim writing, have been the focus in almost every class. For example, in our Patent Searching class we are learning to use several databases to find issued patents and patent applications relevant to our capstone projects. Deciding on what keywords to use for a search strategy and when to adjust the initial search strategy are important building blocks for determining the patentability of an invention. A thorough search has to be completed before any claims can be written because that will set the stage for the rest of the patent drafting process. Unbeknownst to me, people can have a lucrative career solely as a patent searcher, so that should let you know just how imperative it is.

Obtaining such building blocks will set us apart from people that jump into the patent law field merely because they have an extensive background in science or engineering and don’t want to take a “traditional” route. Being able to properly complete a prior art search and draft an application with a strong claimset will prove to be a great selling point to any potential employer.