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Please do not confuse your ability to use Google with my professional qualifications and experience

I've recently been having some...issues, shall we say....with one or two clients who seem to think that the majority of my job involves filling in forms and checking tick boxes, and that as this isn't particularly hard work, they don't see why they should pay me hundreds of pounds to do it on their behalf.

As it happens, they're not entirely wrong - a lot of this job is form-filling. However, I, and I would guess more or less any other trained professional, get a bit narked when the professional skills that I have spent considerable effort and time acquiring are called into question, especially when this is done in a somewhat dismissive manner that suggests that what I am proposing that the client pay for is not actually a skilled task at all. I find this particularly galling when the fees being quibbled over are around one-third to one-half of what I was usually required to charge when I worked for a large mainstream law firm (the discussion on how much a skilled professional should be able to charge for their services is a moral argument that can wait for another day. Until then, free market, supply and demand, yadda yadda yadda).

So, here's some word salad:

General Tire, enabling disclosure, windsurfer, Pozzoli, groundless threats, insufficiency, scope, antecedent basis, each and every integer.

All of those words and phrases mean something very specific to a Patent Attorney, and they all relate to the validity and scope (the range of protection) of a patent.

It's very easy to prepare and file an application that appears to fulfil the minimum necessary conditions specified by the Patent Office: it has a description, it has figures, it has claims, it has a title. However, if you didn't understand the significance of the words above, then it's a safe bet that your application isn't worth the paper it's written on: it's going to take very little effort to pick it apart to the point of invalidity, or to design a competing copycat product that doesn't infringe. And that's if it even gets as far as being granted without running into insurmountable objections.

Here's some more words:

Priority date, Paris Convention, National Phase Entry, compliance period, publication date, divisional.

All of these relate to deadlines. In Patent World, any action carried out usually sets a deadline. Most of the time, you have to work out the deadlines yourself - you're not told what they are. Unless you know that carrying out a particular action sets a particular deadline, then you can find yourself blissfully unaware that your application lapsed several months previously, and is now unrecoverable (the patent office usually doesn't tell you that your application has lapsed, either). Tick the wrong box, and this is where you'll end up.

Again, back when I worked at a large corporate law firm, we had a major client who appointed their own Intellectual Property Manager. Once he was appointed, it took six weeks of dedicated training to get the guy to the point where he was able to communicate effectively with us - he could understand the terminology we used, and he could grasp the significance of the information we gave him. Six weeks.

Have I made my point yet?

In case I haven't, and purely co-incidentally, I was e-mailed by a business contact about an ex-client recently. At least, I assume they're an ex-client, although they haven't actually contacted me to tell me that my services are no longer required.

Anyway, the reason that my contact was in touch was because they had in the past carried out some work under my instruction for the client in question, and were as a consequence listed as a possible address for service. The Patent Office had phoned them up to discuss the client's case. Apparently, the client had attempted to submit paperwork and formal patent office fees on their own behalf, presumably in an attempt to cut a corner and save themselves the attorney fees for carrying out the work. Long story short: the fees were incorrect and paid late, and as a consequence the application has lapsed, leaving the client with nothing to show for the (non-refundable, incorrect) fee they just paid, plus all the money they've spent previously on getting the application to where it was (preparation fees, filing fees, search fees, examination fees, etc).

So, I'm hardly an uninterested party in this, and obviously the rejoinder is going to be the same as for skilled professionals: "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he? Vested interest in keeping it complicated, innit?".

Well, if the arguments above haven't convinced you, then by all means, please feel free to do the job yourself. Just bear in mind that I borrowed the title of this post from a surgical website. Apparently, doing that yourself requires some training, too.

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