IP practice is entering a new era some have dubbed IP Practice 3.0. If IP Practice 1.0 was largely paper-based with the predominant technologies including word processing and facsimile, then the hallmark of IP Practice 2.0 has been the digitization of patent files and prior art documents, thus enabling electronic filing and searching as well as newer technologies like machine translation. Presently, we are embarking on an age in which automation, use of AI applications, and the customization of other technologies are taking efficiency and client service to new heights for IP practices.
New Era, New Practice Structure
With the new era comes a need to rethink the traditional practice structure. In contrast with seniority-based structures (e.g., partners, associates, agents, paralegals, secretaries, and so on), a new way of contemplating and organizing practices has been proposed using a structure trifurcated based on function. A Counseling Layer, a Production Layer, and a Services Layer form separate but interdependent business units, each being conducive to different approaches for optimization. The Counseling Layer is responsible for client interactions, high-end legal work, and directing and overseeing the generation of high-volume substantive work product by the Production Layer. The Services Layer provides automation and data analytics technologies to support the Counseling and Production Layers.
Figure 1. A proposed framework for IP Practice 3.0.
A Purpose-Built Production Layer
Draft Builders is a scalable platform designed from the ground up as a bolt-on Production Layer for busy in-house and law firm patent practices. Draft Builders uses a network of vetted US-based registered patent practitioners to provide on-demand bandwidth for patent application preparation in domains including software, mechanical, electrical, composition of matter, and more. Somewhat like the way Uber and AirBnB provide ad libitum platforms for individuals to monetize their personal assets (i.e., their car or home), Draft Builders provides an ad libitum platform for network practitioners to monetize their own time and patent skills.
Draft Builders’ initial focus is patent application preparation but future plans include adding office action responses and other patent documents. While filing counsel representing Draft Builders’ customers (or customers’ clients) are responsible for directing and overseeing patent document preparation and filing processes, Draft Builders manages workflow, conflicts safeguards, and quality assurance as the latest technologies in patent automation help maximize value.
Figure 2. The Draft Builders ecosystem.
Eliminating Issues With Procuring and Adopting Advanced Tech
Draft Builders represents a centralized platform for licensing and deploying a curated set of the most advanced in patent-practice-specific technologies. By handling curation, Draft Builders addresses the challenges of tech procurement, implementation, and maintenance of patent automation technologies—it’s all managed by Draft Builders. Challenges with training and adoption are also addressed in that the licensed technologies are operated by Draft Builders, not by its network practitioners. Instead, network practitioners continue to use the existing industry-standard document preparation tools they are accustomed to like Microsoft Word.
How it Works
In practice, the filing counsel sends Draft Builders a work order including an invention title, assignee name, reference number, and due date. Draft Builders assigns the project to a network practitioner with an appropriate technical background and who clears conflicts. Final conflicts clearance is up to individual network practitioners, but Draft Builders streamlines the process by filtering work assignments based on self-reported conflicts data. Once conflicts are cleared, the filing counsel sends Draft Builders all disclosure documents and, optionally, application templates or model applications to emulate.
After reviewing the disclosure materials, the network practitioner drafts only certain application components like the background section, the problem/solution statement, a primary claim set, and descriptions of drawings illustrating example embodiments. In the meantime, Draft Builders generates an application template using proprietary patent emulation technology, which mimics the document styles associated with different law firms or assignees and provides supporting content that is not invention specific.
Using the practitioner-written primary claim set as input, Draft Builders uses proprietary natural language generation (NLG) technology to create content for substantial portions of the patent application. Next, taking what the network practitioner drafted along with the auto-generated content and the application template, Draft Builders assembles a first draft of the patent application. The first draft is reviewed and bolstered by the network practitioner yielding a second draft that is delivered to the customer’s filing counsel for pre-filing review and finalization.
Figure 3. Overview of Draft Builders’ workflow for patent application preparation.
Draft Builders for Corporate and Law Firm Customers
For in-house and law firm patent practices, Draft Builders provides dependable consistency and quality. Despite its aggressive fixed fees, Draft Builders is able to leverage elite practitioners who might otherwise be priced out of patent drafting work. Among other requirements, each network practitioner (1) was trained at an elite general practice firm or major patent boutique, (2) has a certain experience level, and (3) meets personal prosecution performance metrics. Strict document guidelines ensure consistent work product across all network practitioners. Draft Builders aims to have its best applications be very high quality and to have its worst applications also be very high quality, while letting the customer’s filing counsel focus on high-value business legal issues.
Because Draft Builders lacks the traditional law firm overhead, patent applications can be prepared at substantially lowers costs but with comparable quality and better consistency. Perhaps equally importantly, Draft Builders provides truly flexible preparation capacity. Customers can spin up patent work without the risks and overhead associated with hiring additional personnel.
Draft Builders provides several benefits over other outsourcing options. Compared to offshoring, quality control is much more tightly managed with Draft Builders yielding superior consistency and predictability in the work product. Also, all activities performed by Draft Builders and the network practitioners occur within the US, thus avoiding export control issues. Leveraging the best drafters and the best technology, Draft Builders is the premium alternative to other onshoring options as well.
Draft Builders for Network Practitioners
Draft Builders brings the gig economy to patent preparation for independent practitioners and law firm practitioners. Qualifying US practitioners can now get patent drafting work without spending time and resources on business development or other non-billable activities—and take home more per hour than at Big Law. Work from Draft Builders can boost private practices or supplement them during ebbs in workload.
With Draft Builders, network practitioners spend their time on the “interesting” drafting, not the boring, mechanical parts of writing patent applications. Draft Builders uses automation and delegation to offload as much as possible from the patent preparation process so network practitioners can focus on the most strategic and nuanced parts.
In today’s state of transition in the patent industry, evolving practices need to rethink their structures given the economic climate for patent services, the shortage of early-career talent, and the challenges presented by finding and implementing the latest practice technologies. Separating out Counseling, Production, and Services allows these practice functions to be optimized in the ways they are individually most conducive to. Draft Builders is a turnkey Production Layer for in-house and law firm patent practices addressing many of the immediate challenges in the industry. For network practitioners, Draft Builders provides a platform that frees them of much of the drudgery of practice while letting them earn at competitive rates.