"So what exactly is it that you do...?"
Hello, and welcome to the Lock IP blog. I'm Richard Lock, the solo owner and operator of Lock IP.
I've started this blog to flesh out the dry professional CV-phraseology, and to talk about various things related to the sort of day-to-day work I do with inventors, developers and managers. There are dozens of specialist Patent and Intellectual Property blogs out there, filled with high-powered legal minds eager to dissect the latest high-court decision or European ruling. This isn't going to be one of them.
I mainly deal with small to medium firms, and solo inventors and developers. Their concerns and knowledge requirements in relation to Intellectual Property are far removed from those of legal bloggers writing mainly for other legal professionals, and there are questions and conversations that seem to come around again and again. So that's what I'll mainly be writing about: the bread-and-butter, day-to-day business of making IP work for inventors, developers, managers, and people in business. And occasionally I'll be thrown by something completely new, and when that happens, I'll be writing about that, too.
"So, what exactly is it that you do?". This is a pretty typical getting-to-know-you small talk question. It also happens to be one that I don't look forward to being asked. "I'm a Patent Attorney" tends to elicit a lot of blank looks, in various shades of polite. The explanatory follow-up "I work with Intellectual Property" tends to have the person alternating between looking at their watch and looking over my shoulder either for an exit or for someone to talk to who isn't talking crazy talk.
So what does it mean? Well, 'Intellectual Property' is a phrase that refers to anything that is 'a creation of the mind', for which a monopoly is granted to the creator by law. In plain English, if you create or invent something, it is protectable by law as yours, exclusively. The 'something' could be a logo, a piece of music, a piece of art, or an invention (which could be a brand-new device, a new part of a device, or an improved method of doing something). It's a complex sub-area of law that covers patents, trade marks, registered designs, and copyright. Legally, as the creations are 'property', this area connects and overlaps with mainstream law when it comes to questions of ownership, licensing, and all the other things you can do with property.
In order to be a good Patent Attorney (and I am), you need to know at least a little about all of these areas, and to be a specialist in at least one. Generally, I specialise in patents, although I'm pretty good in all the other areas, too. A patent is basically a combination technical and legal document that forms a word fence around your idea, and thus protects it. A Patent Attorney will spend quite a bit of time doing other stuff (filling in forms, mainly....), but the foundation core skill is being able to write a patent specification. To do this, you first need to be able to 'speak tech' - that is, be able to hold a detailed technical conversation with engineers or inventors, without frustrating them with stupid questions, while knowing when you need to ask a non-stupid question. You also need to be really, really good at written English. English is a very ambiguous, complex language. That makes for great poetry, but isn't necessarily so great for writing a complex technical/legal document. So you need to be able to take an ambiguous, complex language, and spin it into a form of words that will not only provide a protective fence around a single particular crystallised form of a technical idea (e.g. the particular product), but all the possible different ways in which the abstract idea could actually be carried out in reality (potential competing products). You also need to be able to do this in such a way that your word fence is strong enough that it can't be pulled apart because the language you've used is too ambiguous, or you've tried to fence off too much territory, or too little, or any one of a dozen other ways a patent can be attacked. And if you really want to go to town, you'll need to bear in mind that it might need to be translated into a different language, and still do the same job....
In short, it means you have to have a very particular set of skills that lie at the intersection of engineering, language, and law.
Like most other Patent Attorneys seem to do, I stumbled into this career accidentally. I have a technical background in Mechanical Engineering. I also like to read a lot, and since starting this career, I've studied for a LOT of specialist legal exams.
So that's what I do. I love talking to inventors and getting them to explain their idea to me (and now that I'm not an engineer, I don't have to do any of the hard technical work that led up to that point); I love writing patent specifications, and; I love arguing with patent examiners in order to get the patent application granted.
I'll be updating this blog fortnightly. Upcoming topics will include: 'why should I file a patent application?', 'how to monetise your invention', and 'top ten myths about intellectual property'.
If you'd like to get in touch and ask me some questions, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.