Attorney Versus Agent

PatentLawPic1123As a continuation of the previous posts on patent attorney demographics, I looked at the status of registered US patent practitioners.  As the chart above demonstrates, more recently registered practitioners are less likely to be registered as patent attorneys. 

It is not surprising that a high percentage of recently registered practitioners are agents.  Many current patent agents will eventually become patent attorneys.  In addition, some practitioners never update their status even after becoming attorneys. However, I suspect that those factors do not explain the entire trend.

For those who do not know, an individual can become a patent agent upon passing the patent practitioner registration examination (patent bar exam).  To become a patent attorney, the individual must also be licensed to practice law in at least one US state.

  • Thanks to my research assistant Lawrence Higgins (2L) for helping obtain some of this data.

In re Gleave: Reference with Unknown Utility Still Anticipates

In re Gleave (Fed. Cir. 2009)

In 2008, the BPAI affirmed the examiner’s rejection of Gleave’s claims as anticipated. The claims focus on an antisense oligodeoxynucleotide designed to bind two different types of insulin-dependent growth factor binding protein (IGFBP). The prior art included a document that listed the genetic sequence of the complementary sense strands but did not identify any utility of the sequence.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed the anticipation rejection – basing its decision on the rule that anticipatory prior art does need to be functional, useful, or show actual reduction to practice. Rather, to be anticipatory, the prior art must enable the skilled artisan to make the claimed invention.

In the 1973 Wiggins case, the CCPA ruled that the “mere naming of a compound in a reference, without more, cannot constitute a[n anticipatory] description of the compound.” The Federal Circuit here distinguished Wiggins – noting that in Gleave’s case, the sequence listing was sufficient to allow a skilled artisan to “at once envision each member of this limited class.”


Dear Patently-O: How Do You React to the Following Letter

Dear Mr. Crouch:

I am a solo physician and inventor. I am wondering if you can point me in the generally right direction to resolve this issue.

I went to a large, well-respected, nationally-known firm to file a patent application for an invention. The invention is not that complicated. It’s mechanical rather than electrical or chemical; in fact, I can make prototypes in my kitchen fairly quickly. The invention mostly relies on a new combination of existing devices/technology.

My attorney knew from the start that I am a solo inventor and under a tight budget. The final fees were astronomical. I paid them at the time because the lawyer had obviously worked hard and I had agreed to pay the hourly rate she had quoted. However, I recently discovered that the application is much, much longer than patents of similar complexity, and the fees I paid are much higher than for similar patents.

To give you a comparison, based on a word count, my patent application was literally twice as long as Dean Kamen’s patent for an early Segway device in 1994. My fees were three times as high as another firm (Cooley Godward) says to expect for fees for most routine patents (other than for complex patents such as biologics, pharmaceuticals, etc.).

My current plan is to go back to this attorney and have a frank discussion with her, and to ask for a partial refund. If she refuses, I plan to go to the state bar and file a complaint.

Is this the right way to go about this? Are there any precedents for recovering fees in this sort of situation in a way that won’t tie me up in further legal fees?

Many thanks,

____ ____ M.D. (anonymized at the author’s request)