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Evolving With the Patent Landscape – Practitioners Need Better Tools

by: Chris Mulkey, COO / Head of Research

In a recent article by Ian C. Schick (found here), Schick discusses the surprising trend of diminishing practicing patent attorneys/agents relative to the year in which they were admitted to the patent bar, despite the relatively steady rate of bar passage. In other words, the trend is a strikingly lower percentage of new patent bar registrants are practicing law.

Schick points out that, with supply decreasing and demand rising, either the price for legal work is going up, or there must be other factors at play that are offsetting the expected price increases.

I tend to agree with Schick’s assumption of the latter: that prices of legal work are not rising proportionally to the drastic decline of supply. I then further agree with his conclusion that more and more non-legal work is being outsourced to cheaper and more efficient entities, e.g. companies/software for drafting and workflow automation. This outsourcing frees up the patent practitioner to focus a higher percentage of his efforts on legal opinions, keeping the relative return per unit of time elevated, while keeping overall costs to the client down. In essence, we may be witnessing the shift between optimizing the “dollars per application” model to optimizing instead the “HOURS per application” model.

But it bears mentioning that there is one other major area where efficiencies can be gained, which has already been happening for years – the outsourcing of the prior art research that forms the legal opinions, which often occurs before the drafting stage entirely.

It’s no great secret that many practitioners already use 3rd-party vendors to perform research work. But the quality being returned from a vendor becomes more crucial than ever in this changing landscape. The ultimate legal opinion may be disclaimed away as based on the best facts available, but if those “facts” are erroneous, no amount of disclaimer is going to avoid an unhappy client, even if the blame can be fairly shifted to the vendor. And with increasing competition due to shrinking supply, it may be more crucial than ever to maintain client trust and satisfaction.


Enter LIMESTONE - Techson’s enhanced solution for finding the best prior art in the fastest way possible. A common misconception is that Limestone is primarily a tool for patent researchers, but it was developed for the patent practitioner as well. It takes a novice about 5 minutes to learn, unlike most prior-art-locating products on the market, and it requires input that invariably is already in the hands of the practitioner, so no pre-research is needed to get started, you don’t have to spend the time to commission a search, and you don’t have to wait for the results.

Whether you need to quickly assess the pre-existence of an potentially inventive concept, perform due diligence on an acquisition, or double-check your source data for a clearance opinion, one simple run through the Limestone platform can give you an immediate flavor of what you’re missing, or confirm that you have all the data your opinion requires.

The industry is trending toward efficiency, and historically this means increased outsourcing – but it doesn’t have to. Utilizing LIMESTONE for your prior art research means increasing efficiency WITHOUT letting go of the reins.

 Ask us, and we’ll proudly give you a demo to show you how to keep those outsourcing expenses in your client’s pocket instead.