Monthly Archives: June 2010

How the Northeastern Indiana Amish Serve as a Business Lesson about Patents

The Amish can serve as a lesson for business about patent strategy

I have been spending time in Northeastern Indiana–the land of my roots–to introduce my children to their aunts, uncles and many, many cousins.  Catching up with extended family has made it difficult to formulate a post in the past couple of weeks, but I have a few moments this morning and wanted to capture a thought that has been rattling around in my head since I arrived here.

Anyone who has spent time in this part of the U.S. will be familiar with the presence of the Amish as part of the cultural landscape.  My children, as city kids, are fascinated whenever they see a carriage with families traveling along the side of the roads.  However, I invariably consider about how stifling I would find it to not be able to interact with the outside world in the way that is familiar to me.  In short, I wonder what it would be like not to be able to be part of the modern world and immediately subtract all of this from my “happiness quotient”, which is the same view I have held of the Amish lifestyle since I was a child.

Earlier this week, I was sitting with my uncle, who is a prominent small town lawyer, about an Amish client of his.  He was going over some documents while we were chatting, and I said “So how do you talk to him?  Do you have to drive out to his homestead?”  My uncle laughed, and said “Oh, Jackie, they all have cell phones here.”  And just then, the phone rang with the Amish client, and they proceeded to have a conversation about his substantial financial assets.

After his call was over, my uncle revealed some very interesting things about the “modern” Amish of Northeastern Indiana.  Unlike years past, many have become very prosperous by engaging with technology such as cell phones, satellite Internet and generators.  One of his clients has owns a factory with 100 employees that makes the “Amish-made” products that are sold in Bed Bath and Beyond.  As he related this information, I recalled that the Amish houses we passed on the way up here looked very new, as opposed to the lived-in look from the Amish of my childhood memories of the 1970’s and 80’s.  (The carriages we passed on the road were certainly much more modern and well-appointed with shock absorbers and safety equipment than the one in the picture above.) Continue reading

Innovation is Sprouting in US Patent Office: A Plea for Flexibility from Patent Practitioners and Interested Parties to Allow the Necessary Changes

This blogger is keeping her fingers crossed that necessary changes will be allowed to occur in the US Patent Office.

Anyone who has practiced IP law for a few years can attest to the transformations happening in the US Patent Office over the last year.  In my opinion, Director Kappos is more than a breathe of fresh air over his predecessors, he actually knows what he is doing!  Also, regardless of what one may think of President Obama’s other policies and actions, one cannot question that his leadership is resulting in real attempts at innovation in the arguably previously moribund Patent Office.

As a experienced patent practitioner, the last several years have been very demoralizing.  I actually made the decision to stop working as a patent prosecutor because, quite simply, I became weary trying to educate junior examiners about the deeply nuanced intricacies of patent law.  Worse was trying to explain to clients why their patent application covering an important commercial innovation could not get approved in the Kafkaesque environment of the circa 2000’s US Patent Office or why their competitors were seemingly able to get ridiculously broad patents covering the prior art.

From my vantage point as a 15+ year patent professional, it is clear that the absence of experienced leadership in the Patent Office in recent years served as a primary cause of the problems that we face today.  Those thinking I am overstating this point would do well to remember that the first Director of Patent under President George W. Bush brought to the job the stellar credentials of having been the Chief Prosecutor of the Clinton impeachment trial, who needed a safe place to land after losing his Arkansas reelection bid.  (One must wonder whether he knew what a patent was before he took the lead role in Patent Office.)  The second Director, Jon Dudas, was only slightly more qualified:  as a former legislative aide, he had probably seen a patent before being appointed to head of the Patent Office, but not much more.   And, the appalling lack of competent leadership in the Patent Office occurred at the time the number of patent filings was increasing markedly:  in 2000 there were approximately 330K patent filings versus about 435K in 2006.  In my opinion, things went to Hell in Hand-basket in the Patent Office from 2000 to 2008. Continue reading