We live in interesting times. Specficio (here) allows registered practitioners to submit a claim set (one independent with as many dependent as desired), and the software drafts a specification for review before submission. Currently, it supports only software-related inventions. The biographies of the founders reveal a lawyer, a venture capitalist, a linguistic expert, and more.
AI is going to affect everything in the law, and it happened already and will increase in speed exponentially (literally) over the next few years. Beyond the basic question of the quality of the value-add the service provides, I had these questions:
First, what about conflicts? This entity is going to provide a specification to anyone who submits a claims set. So, imagine two competitors, and a lawyer for Company A and a lawyer for Company B submit claim sets, and submit them. This company provides specs for claims that interfere. Conflict of interest? If it’s not, why not? In this regard, the TOS says that it is not providing legal advice, and so any ethical rules about conflicts would not apply, presumably.
Privilege and Confidentiality.
You are engaging Specifio to provide the Site and Services in order to assist you in providing provision of legal advice to your client.
It is understood that only you and your client have the right to assert or waive the attorney-client privilege, not Specifio.
To the extent permitted by law, it is intended and agreed that any communications made to Specifio by you or your client in connection with your use of the Site and Services shall be privileged and that any such communications shall be made to facilitate communications between you and your client and to aid you in rendering legal advice to your client. We, therefore, shall not divulge to anyone any communication (or part or substance thereof) received from you or your client in connection with the Site and Services.
Definition of Confidential Information
For the purposes of this paragraph 1, “Confidential Information” means patent claims, and any resultant draft patent application specifications and/or drawing figures generated by the Services, that you e-mail to us or that we e-mail back to you in accordance with the intended use of the Services.
Restrictions on Use and Disclosure
We may keep and use obscured content-stripped versions of your Confidential Information; however, the content words will be removed from the documents and replaced with nonspecific symbols so that the meaning of the text cannot be ascertained. For example:
The present disclosure relates to systems and methods for facilitating review of a confidential document by a non-privileged person by stripping away content and meaning from the document without human intervention such that only structural and/or grammatical information of the document are conveyed to the non-privileged person
would look something like this:
the p0018 d0017 r0019s to systems and methods for f0000ing r0001 of a c0002 d0003 by a n0004 p0005 by s0006ing a0007 c0008 and m0009 from the d0003 without h0010 i0011 such that only s0012 and/or g0013 i0014 of the d0003 are c0015ed to the n0004 p0005.
We use these obscured content-stripped versions for limited internal purposes only, such as to analyze document structures and word forms, which helps use do things like provide you with better support services and improve the Services.
In addition, Specifio does not train its machine-learning models on the content of any Confidential Information. This helps ensures there is never “cross pollination” between patent applications.
We will not disclose to anyone that you are a Specifio customer or that you are using the Services, without your prior written consent in each instance.
The restrictions set forth in paragraph 1 will not apply with respect to any Confidential Information that: (i) was or becomes publicly known through no fault of ours; (ii) was rightfully known or becomes rightfully known to us without confidential or proprietary restriction from a source other than you who has a right to disclose it; (iii) is approved by you for disclosure without restriction in a written document which is signed by you; or (iv) we independently develop without access to or use of your Confidential Information. The restrictions set forth in paragraph 1 will not restrict us from disclosing Confidential Information pursuant to the order or requirement of a court, administrative agency, or other governmental body, provided that we give you reasonable notice to enable you to contest such order or requirement
The restrictions set forth in this paragraph 1 will survive the termination or expiration of your use of the Site and Services.
You agree to reimburse us for reasonable legal fees and expenses incurred in connection with any litigation or administrative proceeding resulting from: (i) our failure or refusal of to comply with any attempt to compel us to disclose any communication described in described in this paragraph 1 (or part or substance thereof) or to produce documents or (ii) the obtaining of, or attempt to obtain, a court order compelling us to disclose any communication described in this paragraph 1 (or part or substance thereof) or to produce documents.
Next, despite saying that it’s not providing legal services, drafting a specification is — at least as the term is now understood — the practice of law. If that is so, then we have a corporation providing legal services. Can you use a corporation to provide legal services to your client in your state? That might be the unauthorized practice of law, so check. Further, the founders, presumably sharing the fees, do not appear to all be lawyers, or registered practitioners. Lawyers cannot let non-lawyers control representations. Lawyers cannot share legal fees with non-lawyers. It all could be perfectly fine, but those facts gave me pause. Again, it’s a new world.
Further, the TOS says the services can be performed anywhere in the world. That could create a need for disclosure to a client, and, potentially at least, some other issues if the information in the claims is particularly sensitive.
Please note: I’m not saying this is unethical, illegal, or a bad idea. I have no informed opinion. I see issues. I am a big fan of reducing legal costs and speeding up patenting (that’s going to be critical in the near future). But, despite looking at the entity’s web page, I have questions that, if I were you, I’d investigate first.