Transforming IP Practices: The Rise of AI-Powered Patent Attorneys – IPWatchdog.com

January 12, 2024, 07:15 AM   12
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“The strategic opportunity lies in saving 50% of attorneys’ time today and envisioning a future where the arduous task of writing a 40-hour patent could be accomplished in just four hours, totally redefining the landscape of patent writing and prosecution.”
IP PracticesIn the dynamic landscape of the legal industry, the winds of change are blowing stronger than ever, and the eye of the storm is centered on intellectual property (IP) practices. The catalyst for this transformation is the rapid diffusion of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) across industries. If we liken this to historical breakthroughs, the emergence of the internet 30 years ago pales in comparison, as GenAI’s impact is a staggering 100 times faster.
The legal industry, once considered somewhat sheltered from disruptive forces, now finds itself at the epicenter of a tornado of change. This is particularly true for IP practices, where the intricacies of patent prosecution have long relied on intensive human involvement. As a partner entrusted with steering the strategy of your firm over the next decade, understanding the seismic shifts brought about by GenAI is paramount.
While technological revolutions can be unsettling, they also usher in new possibilities and innovations. History is replete with examples of Luddites resisting change back in the 19th century, and yet, embracing technology has consistently paved the way for progress. The looming question for IP law firms is not whether the present circumstances are satisfactory, but how to capitalize on the exciting prospects that lie ahead.
A close look at the revenue and cost structure of patent prosecution practices reveals significant dangers. A whopping 50% of revenue is allocated to patent writing and office actions, while 90% of costs are attributed to human resources, split between practicing attorneys and administrative support. The human time investment for patent writing and office actions is substantial, posing a significant risk to meeting rising demand.
Becoming a qualified patent practitioner is a formidable task, requiring 7-10 years and an investment exceeding $200,000. However, the industry faces a shortage of new practitioners due to various factors, including a diminishing pool of junior professionals, attractive alternatives in the technology sector, economic uncertainties, and high education costs. This shortage coincides with a surge in patent filings, creating a widening gap between demand and the available pool of qualified professionals. In the United States, there are about 40,000 active patent attorneys, but by 2025, the demand is expected to reach over 100,000!
The heavy reliance on administrative and clerical tasks further compounds the challenge. These processes, laden with paperwork, communication, and manual data entry, are error-prone and resource-intensive. The industry faces the risk of being unable to meet the increasing demand for qualified professionals, raising concerns about the future of patent prosecution.
The financial landscape of the legal industry is undergoing a seismic shift. Pressure from clients to lower costs and adopt task-based payment models is intensifying. Additionally, competition from tech-enabled IP service providers, leveraging outsourcing and lower-cost talent in Asia or India, and human capital pay rise is putting a squeeze on profit margins. Law firms are grappling with the need for profitability amidst rising costs and changing billing practices.
In the face of these challenges, IP law firms stand at the brink of an unparalleled opportunity to transform operations and enhance profitability through GenAI. By reducing the human intensity of practice by a factor of 10, firms can revolutionize their day-to-day operations and deliver the productivity gains customers expect.
The strategic opportunity lies in saving 50% of attorneys’ time today and envisioning a future where the arduous task of writing a 40-hour patent could be accomplished in just four hours, totally redefining the landscape of patent writing and prosecution. GenAI enables firms to meet the escalating demand for patent services, minimizing operational risks, and addressing the demand gap. With fewer new practitioners entering the field, GenAI ensures continuity, utilizing existing data to maintain quality and expertise, addressing the talent gap. GenAI adapts swiftly to changes in patent requirements and laws, providing up-to-date applications and leveling up everyone in the process, addressing the knowledge gap.
Beyond the attorney-centric transformation, there is an equally compelling opportunity to streamline administrative tasks. GenAI offers IP law firms a unique chance to gain a competitive edge by automating administrative tasks, resulting in a 50% reduction in time spent on these diffuse and challenging processes. Whether extracting and entering key information into an IPMS or docketing system or handling large workloads, GenAI operates with consistency, precision, and efficiency, reducing errors and mitigating execution risks.
As law firms’ business and operating models evolve, GenAI becomes the most powerful ally.
In conclusion, the current AI revolution is the most exciting opportunity for IP practices to lower risks, increase customer success, and restore profitability. This transformation is not a matter of “if” but “when.” Those who hesitate risk falling behind, while pioneers stand to reap the greatest rewards.
Image Source: Deposit Photos
Author: [email protected]
Image ID: 315955022 

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12 comments so far.
Dear clueless (and that’s a better name for you),
I suppose that your business model can aptly be labeled: “you get what you pay for.”
I will continue to charge my value, and will continue to have clients that appreciate that value, thank you.
LOL @ anon. Old guys pining for the days where they could ruminate and pontificate their way to $20k patent applications. News flash bud, that doesn’t exist anymore outside of very, very specialized niches. Get with the program. Would it be better to spend 100 hours on a patent application? Obviously. Is that practical in this day and age? Absolutely not. Sorry, get over it or retire.
Patenteer,
With all due respect, you have no clue as to that which you speak.
Dear what a waste,
20 hours?
Sure, that is one available “business model” for drafting.
But most definitely, it is NOT a one-size-fits-all, and I would posit in contrast, it is often NOT the best business model.
I can see that business model “working” for larger organizations that have long developed the development funnel, integrating development with active valuation mechanisms. In those cases, many of the critical and thought-time-sucks will be taken care of outside of actual drafting.
But to advocate as you do here is a major DIS-service to our profession.
And directly to F22strike’s point, THIS article:
https://www.reuters.com/technology/microsoft-us-lab-use-ai-speed-search-new-battery-materials-2024-01-09/
rather than promoting innovation will instead raise the specter that ANY attempted patent protection ensuing from the AI- discovered fruits will be challenged as not being able to have patents granted.
The secondary results of any human “opening a black box” and merely reading the results of actual invention having been placed into that black box simply make those humans NOT ABLE TO legally claim to be actual inventors under US law.
This is one of the critical points that I had presented years ago now in light of the DABUS case.
LOL @ the downfall of the 40-hour patent application.
That downfall happened before I graduated law school in 2010.
20 hours max people.
The article refers to a level of effort of forty hours to draft an application. However even without AI many practitioners draft a non-provisional within a typical business day. A reasonable production rate for a patent agent would be a minimum of one hundred applications a year with an allowance rate of eighty percent after non-final rejection.
The author fails to appreciate that due to the AIA, anti-patent rulings of the SCOTUS and CAFC, and, IMO, corruption at the USPTO, US patents are typically worthless. If the underlying invention has significant commercial value, its infringed claims will usually be cancelled in a series of IPRs filed by competitors and/or strawmen. Often the competitors are big-tech companies operating based upon the efficient infringement business model.
The supposed increased demand for US patent prosecutors touted in the article will not materialize. Half of US patents are based on applications filed by foreign entities, most of whom have yet to appreciate that, except in unusual circumstances, they cannot be enforced.
Prosecuting and defending IPRs is far more profitable than patent prosecution. The former legal work is usually not subject to any attorney fee limits imposed by corporate clients. Rather than try to prepare and file a thorough US patent application on a strict budget of $5,000, you can prosecute or defend an IPR through appeal for $500,000.
In addition to serious confidentiality and export license issues, the author apparently fails to understand that patents written with AI may have the validity of their claims challenged based on derivation. If I were a partner or a shareholder of a patent law firm, I would insist on a policy that the patent attorneys in the firm refrain from any use of AI in the preparation and prosecution of US patent applications.
What Anon and Curious said.
It’s only a matter of time before we see “AI-powered” patent attorneys get called on the carpet by state bars, courts (as we’ve already seen), and clients (behind closed doors … mostly).
The Rise of AI-Powered Patent Attorneys?
No. The Fall of AI-Powered Patent Attorneys.
Curious,
Per the ‘end notes,’ two items: The author is not an attorney and IPWatchdog’s Warning & Disclaimer.
This article is basically a commercial. Your puzzlement is why I did not simply ignore the commercial but added my comment.
I’ve had (very sophisticated) clients say point blank “do not use generative AI” when drafting patent applications.
The writer of this article does not appear to be a patent attorney and/or understand the legal ramifications of using generative AI.
This article is replete with landmines for the ethically constrained US patent practitioner.
Here are two rather obvious ones:
1) any outsourcing at a pre-submission level runs the risk of violating US export laws.
2) AI engines still do not secure (and even as some may suggest that they do – ToS typically themselves are not secure enough) the required diligence of practitioners to guard the privacy of their client’s information.
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