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How do you approach a patent application differently than a big law firm?
Chris: Fundamentally we take each patent application a bit more personally. We put a lot of pride and effort into it. Ultimately, that's what we're delivering to clients. Bigger law firms tend to have strict billing requirements. They're going to push volume over quality. For us, each project is a special inventive idea. We're going to give it our absolute best effort.
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Do big firms literally try to get the inventors to write the application for them?
Chris: I think they do. That's part of their strategy for keeping their overall billable hours up. Instead of taking a stab at trying to get a certain section written or trying to expand the application to provide alternate embodiments , they might ask an inventor something in an e-mail and do a quick cut and paste into the patent application. For a patent application to be effective you need alternative embodiments of a lot of the things that are in there, at least the key components.
Once we have a draft done we go back and think about what portions can be expanded as an alternate embodiment. We'll actually write a series of questions to the inventors, not to get them to write sections of the application, but to ascertain specific targeted areas they want to address. That's kind of like the palette of the patent application. Once we get that palette worked out, we can do the details on the technical writing of those sections. We're the drafters and we have the experience in writing these patent applications at the level of detail needed. Especially in Greater Detroit, that is what folks are looking for in patent legal help.
Clients have to like that a lot.
Chris: Yes. We've had a lot of positive comments. I remember one inventor I met at his site in Seattle said, "This is great. We got you involved because when we had our other attorneys, we dreaded going through their stuff knowing it would take a lot of time to get it into shape to be acceptable to file."
They said, "Once we started getting applications from you we noticed it took a lot less of our time. We're almost excited because we know it’s a good application. We will get it filed relatively quickly." Big clients tend to pass out bonuses when these things get filed. So instead of it being a negative like, "Oh, it's going to take a lot of work to get my bonus." – it’s, "Oh, I already have the draft. I know I'm pretty close to getting this thing done." It's been positive reactions for sure.
Is your approach more time intensive on your part?
Chris: It takes more attorney time. A big part of our practice is Silicon Valley clients, so we use a Midwest overhead structure to do California style work and it’s a win for everyone. The law firms in California have a higher cost of everything so they have to charge more and spend less time. If we can take those two things and balance them out so we charge a bit less and spend more time, it all shows up in the overall quality of the patent application.
That's something we take a lot of pride in. So in that respect, it good to practice patent law in Michigan.
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