Amending PDF Pages – Tip #2

As part of a digital workflow you may need to amend pages of a PDF document. For example, you may need to add or remove text. Patent Attorneys and patent paralegals regularly have to edit pages of a patent specification. This short tutorial will show you the easiest way to do this (that I have come across). It also saves printing, allowing you to claim “eco-warrier” status.

The method requires a full version of Adobe Acrobat (versions 7+); however, it may be transferable to other PDF editing tools.

Replacing a Paragraph

  1. First open the required page of your document. (Patent people may download their pages from the EPO’s Register Plus or the USPTO’s PAIR.)

    Test Page in Acrobat
    Test Page in Acrobat
  2. Next select the “Callout Tool” editing option (e.g. Menu: Comments->Drawing Markup Tools->Callout Tool). Click the page somewhere near where you need to make the edit. A post-it-note box and arrow will appear.

    Callout Tool
    Callout Tool
  3. Manipulate the arrow of the box so that it lies behind the text you wish to replace. Resize the yellow box until it covers the text you wish to replace.
    Move Arrow
    Move Arrow

    Adjust Box Size
    Adjust Box Size
  4. Right-click on the box and select “Properties”. Change the “Border” and “Fill” colours to white. Click close.
    Right-click then Properties
    Right-click then Properties

    Change Colours
    Change Colours
  5. Double click in the box to start entering text.

    Enter Text
    Enter Text
  6. To change the text properties (e.g. font size, bold, italics etc), when typing in the box press CTRL-E (Control key and letter E). A text properties tool bar will appear.

    Text Properties
    Text Properties
  7. Once you have made your edits, print the amended file to PDF. You can use Adobe’s or a third party’s PDF Printer Driver. This cements the changes and prevents future recipients from accessing and changing the text box.

    Print to PDF
    Print to PDF
  8. Patent people: you can now email the “printed” PDF page or use it for online filing. No paper is harmed at any point.

Masking Text

  1. Repeat step 1 above.
  2. Select the “Rectangle Tool”. (See a toolbar or Menu: Comments->Drawing Markup Tools->Drawing->Rectangle Tool).
  3. Draw a rectangle over the text you wish to mask.

    Draw Rectangle
    Draw Rectangle
  4. Right-click on the rectangle and select “Properties”. As in step 4 above change the “Border” and “Fill” colours to white. (The clever ones by now will have realised you can also use the toolbar that appeared when you pressed CTRL-E. They will rule us one day.)
  5. Repeat the above steps for any other portions of text to be masked.

    Lather, wash & Repeat
    Lather, wash & Repeat
  6. To cement the changes, print the edited page (or document) to PDF. (Beware: If you use this method to redact pages and do not print to PDF, any recipient can simply delete your nicely drawn rectangles to view the previous text.)

And that completes today’s lesson.

Edited Page
Edited Page

Adobe Acrobat for (IP) Lawyers – Tip #1

Most electronic file systems use Adobe Acrobat’s PDF format for official documents.  It is often useful to add text boxes to these documents; e.g. to add a signature box to certify that a scanned document is a true copy of an original.

One problem with at least versions 7 and 8 of Acrobat is that there is no obvious way to change the properties of the text in the text box. Luckily, the Acrobat User Forums (or more precisely a user named inixia) has the answer:

1. Select “Tools – Comment & Markup – Text Box Tool” [to add a text box];
2. Type any text within the text box and HIGHLIGHT it; and
3. Press CTRL + e (Control button and “e” at the same time).

A hidden “Text Box Text Properties” tool bar will appear allowing you to change the text properties.

Textbox Properties Tool Bar

When you unselect the text (e.g. by clicking on the edges of the text box) the newly-appeared tool bar also allows you to change the properties of the box itself (such as border/fill properties).

The National Archives have a new shiny website for UK Legislation:

The site is actually pretty good and a great improvement over the old HMSO offering (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office if you are wondering – the Queens personal stationery cupboard) . The design is simple enough even attorneys can use it.

For example, typing “patent” as a search term brings me a list all patent related acts and statutory instruments. These can be ordered by date or title. You can even view an Act from 1571. (Trade Mark professional can type “trade mark” for similar fun; if you get bored of IP (or need to sleep) you can also look up the A27 Trunk Road (Shoreham Bypass) Traffic Restriction Order 2010.)

Once you select an item you can choose to view the original legislation (as enacted) or the latest available (as revised). You can also collapse certain sections, print to PDF or HTML, and view a plain text version. When viewing the latest version, amendments are clearly identified and a hyperlink to the implementing legislation is provided.

To be honest, I find it easier to use than the Legislation section of Westlaw. And, unlike Westlaw, it’s free (well, paid for by UK tax payers).

Can You Patent Disruptive Technology?

I am currently, rather belatedly, reading The Inventor’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen.  The author introduces the concept of sustaining and disruptive innovations.

To paraphrase Clayton:

Sustaining innovations are those that are aligned with an organisation’s value network; e.g. the demands of customers. Disruptive innovations are those that have benefits outside of the value network; e.g. for which no demand or market can be easily located. Disruptive innovations are a step downward in terms of profit margins and valued properties.  However, over time disruptive innovations can rapidly move upwards and supplant existing technologies. This can catch-out organisations that are otherwise profitable and well-managed. In fact, Clayton argues that it is good management itself that causes companies to ignore disruptive innovations; disruptive innovations are not pursued inside organisations as they do not sustain traditional growth.

Disruptive Innovation (thanks to Dion Hinchcliffe)

Reading this I wondered how the theoretical framework fitted with patent law. In particular, I saw an overlap with concepts of inventive step:

In patent law, patents are said to belong to a technical field. The size of the field is dependent on the scope of the claims. A narrow field could be seen to be a value network, whereas a broad field could be seen to span several value networks. Using the examples in the book, 3.5″ disk drives could be a narrow field and disk drives per se a broad field.

A “surprising or unexpected effect” is fast becoming a prerequisite to demonstrate inventive step (even though under European patent law it has traditionally been a secondary indicator).  Sustaining innovations are aligned with well-defined demands in a value network. It would be more difficult to prove the  “surprising or unexpected effect” of a sustaining innovation in a narrow field because there would be motivation for a skilled person to look for innovations that satisfied known demands. On the other hand, it would be easier to show such an effect for disruptive innovations, in that these often go against known demands.

Under European practice, to demonstrate an inventive step you typically need to show that a technical problem is being solved. With a disruptive innovation, uses and markets are not defined at the point of innovation. A period of trial and error is required. Hence, there may not be a well-defined problem at the point of innovation and it may be more difficult to demonstrate the inventive step of a disruptive innovation to a European Examiner.

The British courts are often hesitant to use a problem-solution approach for inventive step. It thus may easier be patent disruptive innovations in the UK.

If organisations are able to predict the uses and advantages of disruptive innovations, patenting those innovations may provide a level of insurance against upwardly mobile competitors. Many disruptive innovations are developed in-house but not developed. If they are also patented in-house, then such patents may be used as commercial leverage to slow the assent of a start-up that develops the innovative technology. I expect such an approach would be unpalatable to those who dislike the patent system.

On the other hand, many start-ups who pursue disruptive innovations consist of ex-in-house engineers. If these entrepeneurial engineers can successfully obtain the rights to their innovations, they may be able to obtain the required levels of funding to allow a market to be found. Without the safety net these rights provide, they may not be able to take the time to find a suitable market.

EP & US Excess Claims Fees

Patents can be an expensive business. However, there are a number of ways you can reduce the fees for a new application.

Today: claims fees.

Many national patent offices punitively price excess claims fees to make their jobs easier during examination. It is fairly easy to be caught out by this practice and see your official fees double for fairly little return.

Stack of Euros with thanks to Andres Rueda
Stack of Euros with thanks to Andres Rueda

In Europe excess claims fees are due for all claims over 15.  The 16th to 50th claims have fees of 210 euros each. Each  claim over 50 has a fee of 525 euros. (Correct as of 6 August 2010 – see here for current fee schedule).

In the US excess claims fees are due for all claims over 20. Each claim over 20 has a fee of 52 dollars.  Independent claims in excess of 3 have a fee of 220 dollars. Multiple dependent claims get hit with a 390 dollar fee. (US fees are reduced by half for a small entity – correct as of 6 August 2010 – see here for current fee schedule).

If you are thinking about filing a patent application in Europe or the US, and the issue has not been raised, ask your patent attorney about whether there are any claims fees payable on your application. If there are you may wish to reduce the number of claims within your claim set, remove multiple dependencies or reduce the number of independent claims. Often dependent claims of limited value can be cut (e.g. claims of the form: “and the result is displayed on a display device…”).

If possible aim for a maximum of 15 claims in Europe and a maximum of 20 in US.

If further possible aim for no multiple dependencies and a maximum of 3 independent claims in the US.

The Kindle & the Business of Patent Law

Fed up with waiting for the infinitely-delayed Plastic Logic Que I took the plunge and bought a Kindle 2.

The Kindle is excellent for reading novels on the go but is it any use in the practice of patent law?


The 2.5 Kindle software update (which appears to be the basis of the software for Kindle 3) has a basic, yet functioning, PDF Viewer. This helps. Most official patent documentation comes in PDF format. You can also convert PDF files to the native Kindle file format using either Amazon’s free conversion service (email [your log-in name] with file attached) or using a free publishing application.

Certain documents are (just about) readable on the 6″ screen without zoom. These include the UK Formalities Manual, the UK Patents Act & Rules, and the EPO Guidelines. The text is roughly US-specification size. You also have the option to rotate the screen to a landscape configuration. This allows the UK Manual of Patent Practice to become readable (although a page is split into 3 or more parts). However, other documents like the EPO’s National Law Compendium are unreadable due to the small font size in full-screen mode and inadequate zoom (a page splits into many parts arranged both vertically and horizontally).

Picture of UK Formalities Manual Picture of EPO Guidelines

The main advantage of the Kindle is its eInk screen.  I have always found that LCD screens and monitors quickly burn out my eyes. The eInk screen is much easier to read without tiring. Try staring at a monitor for twenty minutes then staring at an etch-a-sketch for twenty minutes; that will give a good impression of the advantages of eInk.

For business documents the ideal screen-size is A4. However, the number of A4-sized eInk readers is limited. The best of the bunch is probably the Kindle DX, however, its weight and size make it unwieldy and at $379 it costs $200 more than the Kindle 3 (wi-fi only priced at an amazingly low £109 in the UK). It is interesting to note that many promising A4 eReaders from CES in January have now fallen by the wayside, including the Que and the Skiff. This makes the Kindle 3 a good stand-in while the A4 (and hopefully touch-screen) technologies come to market (I expect Christmas 2010 if the Kindle 3 is a success).

I will keep you updated as to my eReader adventures.