Our patent system is intended to cultivate an inventor-friendly culture that encourages innovation. After all, innovation is not only beneficial to inventors, but is also a benefit to the public as a whole by improving the world in which we all live. The system suffers from low-quality patents that create uncertainty, increase litigation, and reduce the number of individuals and companies that are willing to invest in the patent process. On the other hand, the patent system is healthiest when innovative businesses and individuals can clearly determine which of their actions are likely to result in patent infringement and which of their actions are likely benign. To help keep our patent system fit and stable, patent professionals should contemplate what it means to produce a quality patent and what they can do to provide better services to their clients.
Three Perspectives on Patent Quality
1. A quality patent meets the legal standards of patentability.
Some might argue that a quality patent is one that has simply been approved by a patent examiner. After all, it is a patent examiner’s duty to ensure a patent meets the minimum requirements of patentability and that the underlying invention is new, non-obvious, and useful. The drawback to this mindset is that it does not consider that patent examiners are human beings with varying knowledge and experience, and a limited amount of time to examine each patent application. Their decisions are not final, are not always correct, and are often challenged. While it is important to strive for patent issuance, there are additional pillars to patent quality that patent professionals should also maintain.
2. A quality patent clearly and effectively communicates the underlying invention.
A second school of thought assesses patent quality based on how well a patent is written and how well the patented subject matter can be understood. Clear patent drafting makes cases of infringement more cut-and-dry and can therefore deter patent infringement, decrease the likelihood of patent validity challenges, and help reduce the number of infringement suits that are filed. Clear and effective communication adds an additional layer of quality to an issued patent and is something for which all patent professionals should strive.
3. Patent quality is determined in part by its value to your clients.
Although well-drafted patents help market participants understand how a patent could impact their business and their ability to innovate, patent clients are often looking at the bottom line. Patent applicants not only want an enforceable patent in their portfolio – they also want the patent process to be a worthwhile investment of their time and money. Patent prosecution can be costly, but effective patent prosecution strategies can help minimize prosecution expenses and increase a patent’s relative value. Patent holders who have gained more from a patent than they spent will argue that a quality patent is one that makes money.
Ensuring Quality Patents with LexisNexis® IP Products
Patent quality is a product of many factors and can be viewed from a number of perspectives. LexisNexis patent resources help patent professionals produce quality patents from all angles.
- The LexisNexis TotalPatent One® patent search platform helps uncover prior art from over 100 worldwide patent authorities to help evaluate patentability and to avoid patent infringement.
- LexisNexis PatentOptimizer® strengthens patent drafting by identifying a lack of sufficient written descriptions, identifying vague and indefinite claim language, identifying claim terms that lack proper antecedent basis, identifying functional claim language without the recitation of corresponding structure in the specification, and detecting and correcting inconsistent part names and numbers.
- LexisNexis PatentAdvisor® provides patent prosecution data that enables patent professionals to navigate patent prosecution in less time and with less expense.
Professionals who use LexisNexis patent products keep the patent system healthy by producing quality patent filings and a quality patent experience for their patent clients.