Is it possible to save clients money and earn more?
It seems paradoxical to earn more by saving clients money. As IP attorneys, we practice a rather specialized and complex area of law. The complexities of IP law present strategic opportunities for streamlining patent prosecution and reducing the likelihood of trademark rejections. But, how would saving clients money lead to more earnings? The key lies in the building of trust which will facilitate even further IP filings as the client sees your genuine interest in doing what’s best for them.
Search before filing to save clients money
Consider whether you should recommend a particular IP search before filing the application. Not every filing warrants a search. For example, I typically do not recommend design patent searches due to the high approval probability of design applications.
Talk to patent examiners
It pays to get in the habit of conducting examiner interviews. You may gain a great deal of insight that will guide your written Office Action response. If you’re dealing with a Final Office Action, for example, it helps to know if the examiner will consider an AFCP reply or if you should file an RCE instead. You may discover that an after-final response will likely lead to an Advisory Action, so you can advise your client to go straight to an RCE to avoid delay and further costs.
Explore cost-saving strategies
In my opinion, patent rejections are more unpredictable than trademark refusals. You can help trademark clients by spotting potential obstacles before filing, e.g., likelihood of confusion or mere descriptiveness. Early warnings can help the client pivot to a different mark that may lead to a smoother registration process. The goal is to foster a mutually beneficial long-term relationship where the client comes back to you for repeat business.
Communicate your money-saving strategies using plain English
It’s easy for us IP attorneys to get caught up in our own vernacular. We tend to forget that clients might not fully understand what we’re talking about. Does the client understand that a patentability search, or even obtaining a patent, has no bearing on potential infringement risks? If forced to choose between using technically accurate language and plain English that might not be technically accurate, go with the simple language.
The key is to help clients understand that you are saving them money by using certain strategies. For example, if particular claim amendments would be more efficacious in securing an allowance, make sure the client understands that you’re helping them get a patent granted sooner. They should also understand that they have the option to keep pursuing broader and/or different claims in a continuing application.
Education and saving clients money go hand-in-hand. The complexities of IP practice, particularly in patent prosecution, are such that you will gain more trust if the client understands what you’re doing and why.
It’s OK to pass on certain projects
Occasionally, a potential client may approach with an IP project which would be better suited for one of my peers. In such cases, I’ll gladly refer the potential client to a trusted attorney who may be able to deliver desired results more cost-effectively. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You may even gain cross-referrals back from those attorneys. Those potential clients may become referrals sources who someday refer one of their friends to you because you were honest in your initial encounters.