By Barb Ernster
The value of intellectual property and patents is critical to protect the innovator’s interest and investment. In response to the problem of understanding and reading patents, Schwegman, Lundberg, Woessner, Pa., an intellectual property law firm in Minneapolis, Minn., came up with an innovative solution to patent portfolio management called ClaimBot®. Marketed and sold under Lucid Patent LLC, ClaimBot is a tool for patent attorneys to help their clients understand their portfolio claim coverage easily and make it visible for all authorized stakeholders.
The idea for ClaimBot came from Steve Lundberg, one of the founding partners of the firm, in response to the common problem of how long it takes to read the “claims” of patents to figure out if a patent is infringed. When there are literally thousands of patents to check (such as when you are doing a “freedom to operate” clearance search) it can be very expensive and time consuming, he says. ClaimBot allows patent claims to be indexed and organized and visualized in a way that makes this review five to 10 times faster. It also helps someone read a single patent’s claims much faster.
IFAI: From your perspective, how does economic slowdown affect innovation among companies?
Lundberg: People generally get more innovative during times of scarcity to incite some growth. Companies also get a lot more aggressive about asserting their patents in tight times and understanding the competitors’ patents so they don’t get sued.
IFAI: How common is it for an inventor or a company introducing new products to discover that their patents were not solid and reverse engineering occurs?
Lundberg: That is very common. There’s often a disconnect between what the patent actually covers and what the inventor or manufacturer thinks the patent covers. A lot of times the patent attorney is just not doing a very good job or the product manager doesn’t understand all the legal documents. Usually the patent is considerably less comprehensive than what it’s believed to be, i.e., there are loopholes in it that are not appreciated by the inventor. By the time a lot of things are discovered, the patent is issued and there’s no way to change it.
IFAI: How does ClaimBot help ease the process?
Lundberg: What ClaimBot helps you do very well is explain and make visible to the inventor and to the product manufacturer what they’re getting, so they understand what their patent actually covers. In that way they can suggest or make changes, or just be aware of the fact that their patent doesn’t cover everything they want it to.
IFAI: How important is it to make sure the patent covers you in the global market, not just the U.S. market?
Lundberg: That’s another issue that comes up often. You need to file for protection in each individual jurisdiction or country that you plan on manufacturing or making large sales. Your U.S. patent only protects you against infringement in the U.S. Things that are manufactured outside the U.S. in violation of a process patent are also considered infringements when they enter the U.S. market. It’s usually too expensive to file patents in each jurisdiction and country, so most people will get a U.S. patent.