OR: Topping up knowledge of European Patent strategies

I’ll happily get absorbed in any sport but one which I enjoy is snooker, as well as the related sports of pool and billiards.

When you are learning to play snooker, the first basic skill you need to learn is how to pot the balls. Starting with easy pots you learn to make fine cuts, long pots and combination shots like plants and doubles.  Trying out trick shots quickly becomes addictive and a good way to show off your growing skills.

But when you watch the pros, you don’t see them making difficult pots or trick shots. Why is this?  They have trained for years and definitely have the skills. Simply put, it’s because the secret of building a good score is in having good cue ball control. The pros’ real skills lie in applying just the right amount of spin and force to make sure the cue ball that they strike ends up in just the right spot to make the next pot achievable.  A well executed strategy makes building a break a series of straightforward shots, with the cue ball control setting up the right environment to ensure success.

Believe it or not, the process is very similar when it comes to writing a patent. When we are speaking with inventors, we normally focus on explaining the key requirements that an invention must have in order for a patent to be granted. These are the need to show novelty and “inventive step” – the invention must be frist of all new and then non-obvious.  However, getting these requirements right is like making the pots in snooker. To ensure that the barriers of novelty and inventive step are overcome in the examination of a patent application, there are in fact some other important strategic factors going on in the background, which are key skills for a patent attorney to master.

That is why this week we attended a seminar run by the European Patent Academy (a program of the European Patent Office for professional representatives) to catch up on the latest developments in various European patent procedural matters.  This is the kind of in-depth technical stuff that we don’t often end up discussing with our clients – topics covered included clarity, added subject matter, how EPO examiners deal with telephone and oral conferences, how to accelerate a patent application at the EPO, and procedures and restrictions realting to amending a patent application.

We enjoyed (or at least managed to stay awake during!) in depth discussions of these topics with worked examples and interactive participation with our fellow professionals. We came out of it feeling refreshed in our knowledge; and while you may never have the need to discuss many of these things with us in much detail, these kind of strategic topics ensure that we will continue to reach positive patent grant outcomes for our clients.

Now to get back to my local snooker hall to work on my trick shots!