Archive for the ‘Practical Tips’ Category

Obtaining a patent is an uncertain process. It is difficult, if not impossible, to predict the prior art that may be located or the examiner you are assigned. Grant rates often vary from 5 to 50%, and it is rare for patent claims to be allowed without limitations during prosecution.  However, there are techniques to manage this uncertainty. Some of these are discussed below.

The International Patent Application

For many businesses, the US and Europe are core markets. To obtain patent protection in these markets, many patent attorneys advise filing an International patent application (also called a Patent Cooperation Treaty – PCT – application). An International patent application only needs to be converted into specific national or regional applications 30 months from an initial filing or priority date. This provides time for a product or service to develop in parallel with a pending application and leaves open the possibility of obtaining protection in states such as Japan, China, Korea and Australia.

An International patent application is searched and a written opinion is drawn up by an examiner. The written opinion resembles an examination report. For applicants from Europe, the European Patent Office prepare these documents. The European Patent Office is seen internationally as one of the tougher patent offices; I often see cases with favourable opinions from examiners in the US, Korea and China hit objections when the case is examined by the European Patent Office.

Costs

There are also costs to consider. Patenting is not cheap. Depending on length and scope, a patent application will likely cost between £5-10k (all figures are excluding taxes and at 2017 rates) to be drafted. Filing costs for an International patent application are £4-5k (most of this being official fees). Filing costs for national or regional applications at the end of the International phase will cost between £5-10k (a chunk of this being official fees and/or translation costs). Then it may cost between £5-15k to prosecute an application and pay grant fees. A good rule of thumb is £30k per country over a 3-7 year period.

A Strategy

Faced with this, a strategy I often suggest is set out below:
Patent Prosecution Workflow

Initial UK Patent Filing

First, it is worth noting that I would not attempt the patenting process unless I could budget around £10k per year over the first 3 years.

Second, it is good to take advantage of the ease and low cost of the UK Intellectual Property Office for a first filing. Official fees are only £230 for filing, search and examination (a bargain really – European Patent Office fees are 10x this). Unlike the US there is no need for assignments and declarations to be filed. You can register this first filing with the priority document access service as well, which makes supply of a certified copy of the priority document a doddle.

UK Combined Search and Examination Report

The UK Intellectual Property Office provide a combined search and examination report with 4-6 months. You can ask to accelerate this and if you have a good reason the request is often granted, shortening the time to 4-8 weeks. While a UK search is often not quite as thorough as an European search, it is quick and cheap (e.g. as compared with Europe or US). It is thus a useful way of identifying any “low-hanging” prior art that may be problematic.

For example, if “knock-out” prior art is located you can choose to withdraw the application within the first 12 months before publication. This helps to cap your loss at the £10k or so of initial costs; it prevents you spending another £20k only to get a refusal on subsequent national or regional applications (or even to have a patent that would easily get knocked out in court). Withdrawing before publication means the content of the patent application will not become public and count against future applications you may make. This is useful if the patent application relates to a product in development; you may come up with an improvement after a year that could support a further patent application that can reuse much of the initial material.

Even if “knock out” prior art is not found, the UK combined search and examination report can help you strengthen your patent claims. For example, prior art may be cited that anticipates your main claims but an amendment is possible that renders the claims novel and inventive over the cited documents. It is definitely better to work this out over a leisurely 4 month period (e.g. iterating with the inventors who may still remember the case), rather than rush this just before priority-claiming applications need to be filed at the 12-month point. While you can never be sure that subsequent searches by other patent offices will not find other, more relevant prior art, an amendment at this stage is often going to be taking your application in the right direction and will be making favourable opinions more likely. Engineers may like to see this as a first “stress test” for the patent application.

The UK combined search and examination report may also flag other issues such as clarity or support that are best dealt with early on. For example, a term you and your inventors thought was well-known may be considered by the UK examiner to be unclear; the specification may then be amended to provide a more in-depth definition from text-books or Wikipedia.

If you do need to amend the claims at this 6-12 month stage, another advantage is that you can make sure that you maximise the scope of positions covered by your patent claims. For example, you first filing may have 20 patent claims. If a number of these claims are deemed obvious over the general knowledge or certain claims need to be added to the main independent claims, then claims may be deleted and other improved fall-back positions added.

Typically, it is good to set aside some inventor time, and a budget of £1-2k to review the UK combined search and examination report and cited art. I often see those who choose not to make this investment at this stage be subject to avoidable higher costs later on in prosecution.

International Phase

If you have a set of patent claims that are novel and inventive over the prior art cited by the UK Intellectual Property Office, the next stage is to file an International patent application within 12 months of the initial filing date.

If you are a UK company, the European Patent Office will perform another search and issue a written opinion setting out any objections. They are pretty good at issuing this within 4-6 months of filing the International patent application. The European search and written opinion provides the second “stress test” of the claims.

Often the European examiner will locate new prior art. One way to reduce this risk is to amend the background of the patent specification before filing the International patent application to make reference to the prior art located in the UK search. In 25-50% of cases, if the UK-cited prior art is relevant and reasonable, the European examiner will (understandably) take the easier option of citing it again. At the very least, referencing the UK-cited art can help you “seed” the European search towards areas you have had time to analyse.

If the European examiner does locate new prior art, then again it is recommended to repeat the same analysis that was performed for the UK combined search and examination report. Often you still have over a year before choices regarding national or regional applications need to be made. A relatively leisurely 4-8 weeks review cycle, incorporating comments from inventors or other engineers, at an attorney cost of £1-2k, can again reap cost savings later on in prosecution.

For example, if the European cited art is “knock out”, costs can be capped at around £15k (e.g. drafting, UK filing, PCT filing and review costs). It may not be possible to have the search results in time to be able to stop publication (which is why the UK search is good). This may seem a lot but it prevents additional spends of £15-20k per country (e.g. £30k < spend < £80k) only for you to receive multiple refusals 2-3 years later.

If amendment is possible, then this can be determined following a review of the prior art and a claim set prepared for national and regional applications. At this stage you may have more confidence in the claims as you know they have been through both UK and European examination. This may make it easier to justify patent applications in multiple countries to a company board or budget comittee.

If a strong position is possible following review and amendment, you may have an option to accelerate prosecution in Europe based on the amended claims. For example, you may wish to file the amended claims and comments on entry, waive the Rule 161 EPC period and file an acceleration request (https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/guidelines/e/e_viii_3_3_1.htm). This may result in a notice of allowance as the first communication. This could be issued within 3 months of entry to the European regional phase (https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/guidelines/e/e_vii_4_2.htm). This could be used as part of a Patent Prosecution Highway scheme in other national offices (e.g. US or China).

Cost Savings

This process represents an additional spend of up to £4k in attorney time. However, this easily pays for itself:
  • It can avoid spending up to £40k+ on patent applications worldwide that are unlikely to be granted.
  • It can avoid long and protracted European Patent prosecution. 
  • It often simply represents front-loading of costs that would be occurred in normal prosecution.
  • It allows leisurely review while the case may still be fresh in inventors minds (with touch points at 6 and 18 months following the filing process). This can also promote inventor engagement with the patent process.
  • The possibility of Patent Prosecution Highways could avoid long and protracted prosecution In multiple countries.
  • If you do obtain a patent it is likely to be stronger and hence of more value.
Obtaining a strong, enforceable patent that protects your software invention is often difficult. Here I will touch on some approaches to stack the odds in your favour.
Software

Why is it difficult to patent software?

There are a number of hurdles that must be overcome to obtain a patent for a software invention. These include:
  • Being new: at least one aspect of your invention must differ from other solutions available to the public. This includes solutions described in other patent applications, blog posts, manuals, online documentation and white papers.
  • Being inventive: not only must your invention have a differing feature, that differing feature needs to be non-obvious. If the differing feature is common knowledge, e.g. is a common feature described in text books or on Wikipedia, and it is straightforward to use it in the context of the other known features, then your invention will be deemed obvious. Likewise if the differing feature is described in another document, and it would be obvious to combine this other document with the pre-existing solution providing the other features, then your inventive will be said to lack an inventive step.
  • Being patentable: your software invention must meet requirements set by law for patentable subject matter. Each jurisdiction has slightly different rules. Normally, statute sets some very broad categories of excluded subject matter. Individual cases and hearings then provide a body of case law that says which areas are allowable and which areas are not. For example, in Europe you need to show that the differing feature provides a ‘technical’ effect, which is often an engineering improvement.

Patenting software also taxes patent attorneys and patent examiners. With mechanical products, you can often see and feel the invention. Similarly, pharmaceutical inventions may be defined through sets of well-defined chemical formulae. Software is harder to visualise – there may be multiple technology layers in an implementation stack and many non-essential interoperating parts. This can often lead to poor patent specifications and misunderstandings.

Also if a patent claim is too specific then it will be easy for a software developer to work around. Most inventions will need to transcend a particular programming language or technology to cover ports to different platforms and to future-proof a patent’s value. However, if a patent claim is too broad, it is often deemed too abstract to be patentable and may also run afoul of clarity provisions.

What do these difficulties mean in practice?

In practice these difficulties often lead to:
  • Low grant rates;
  • Validity challenges;
  • High prosecution spend; or
  • Patent avoidance.

These factors often interact to form a vicious cycle of mutual distrust: too many poor quality patent specifications are filed, leading to cynicism from patent examiners and the public, which leads to knee-jerk rejections and lobbying, which in turn undermines confidence in the system from businesses.

What can we do?

The first thing software companies can do is to find the right patent attorney or attorney firm. There are a few attorneys who deal with software day-in-day-out. These need to be sought out. Look for an attorney with experience of working for a large software company, e.g. Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, SAS, Amazon, Google. The European Patent Office allows you to search by representative to see example applicants.

The second thing software companies can do is to set high standards for their patent specifications. The recent change in practice in the US will hopefully catalyse this. Technical or engineering features should be defined in detail; any high-level marketing terms or IT jargon should be jettisoned. A strong technical problem should be eluded to, and there should be a good set of tiered fall-back positions, each with their own defined engineering advantages.

The third thing software companies can do is to keep on top of the case law in different jurisdictions. Your patent attorney may offer to help you with this. At a simple level, a one page table can show what kind of inventions have been allowed and what kind of inventions have been refused. For example, UK hearing officers often find that database management improvements are not allowed, whereas European examiners find these are technical.

Finding a good patent attorney (or patent client) is a lot like dating.

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Once upon a time, dates were centred around [the golf course / an elite educational establishment alumni group / the locker room / a City gentleman’s club]* (delete as appropriate).

Dates were also primarily a male affair. Typically among greying men in suits and ties.

However, we now live in the 21st century. We have at our disposal the data to make much better matches.

Finding Companies

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There are several free public lists you can use to find companies. These include:

From these lists you can collate a large list of companies that may or may not require intellectual property services. I prefer a long CSV list with no fancy formatting.

Matching by Technology

Most companies specialise in particular areas of technology. Likewise, most patent attorneys have specific experience in certain technologies. A good technology match saves time and money.

One way to match by technology is to use the International Patent Classification.

If you have lots of time (or a work experience student or a Mechanical Turk) you can take each company from your list, one-by-one, and perform a search on EspaceNet. You can then look through the results and make a note of the classifications of the patent applications returned from the search.

If you have no time, but a geeky interest in Python, you can automate this using the excellent EPO Online Patent Services.

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Through a few hacky functions (which can be found on GitHub), you can:

  • Iterate through a large list of companies / applicants;
  • Clean the company / applicant name to ensure relevant search results;
  • Process the search results to extract the classifications;
  • Process the search results to determine the patent agent of record;
  • Process the classifications to build up a technology profile for each company / applicant; and
  • Process the classifications to rank companies / applicants within a particular technology area.

For example, say you are a patent attorney with 20 years worth of experience in organic macromolecular compounds or centrifugal apparatus. Who would you look at helping? How about:

classification-filter_2016-10-27

Or say you wanted to know what technology areas Company X worked in? How about:

classifications_2016-10-26

(* Quiz: any idea who this may be? Guesses in the comments…)

Or say you work for Company X and you wonder which patent attorneys work for your competitors or in a particular technology area. How about:

agents_2016-10-25_20-18-18

From here?

By improving matching, e.g. between companies and patent attorneys, we can open up legal services. As the potential of technology grows, legal service provision need not be limited to a small pool of ad-hoc connections. Companies can get a better price by looking outside of expensive traditional patent centres. Work product can be improved as those with the experience and passion for a particular area of technology can be matched with companies that feel the same.

As you work as a patent attorney you meet many small to medium enterprises (SMEs – businesses with under 250 employees – also known as “small entities” in the US). Everyone has a different level of knowledge, and some companies are unaware of how they can get a better deal. To remedy this, here is my guide to commissioning patent work.

Light on an important subject
The advice is roughly split into the following areas:

  • Use competition to your advantage;
  • Prepare to better use your time;
  • Meet the people doing the work;
  • Look for a commercial and technical fit;
  • Agree on costs and timings in advance; and
  • Agree on workflow in advance.

Use competition to your advantage 

Patent firms (at least in the UK) will offer a free 30-minute consultation to potential new clients. Patent firms do this to get new business. It is often recommended to meet at least three firms to compare costs, people and approach. This means you can get up to 1.5 hours of free legal advice.

You can create a shortlist by looking for local patent firms. For SMEs, local firms (i.e. outside of London) are often a better fit on price and people, and organising company visits is easier. Many university cities have patent law firms, so a good play to start is to pick your nearest and search the Internet for “patent firm [nearest city]”. Have a look at the firms’ websites. You can normally get a feel for the size of a firm and their area(s) of expertise from their website.

If you are in a main patent hub (e.g. London or Munich), look for firms involved in activities that over lap with yours, e.g. firms that have talked at a nearby incubator or known industry group.

Firms are often split into four or so subject areas: pharma & biotech; chemistry; mechanical / heavy engineering; and IT & electronics. Many firms are better in one of these areas and weaker in others. Look for numbers of attorneys, their backgrounds and mentions of key clients to work out strengths and weaknesses. Try to shortlist firms with a strong practice group in your area of business.

Arrange meetings with your shortlist of firms by email or phone.

Prepare to better use your time

Ahead of your initial meetings, there is some preliminary work you can do to maximise your free legal advice and test your prospective firms. This often needs to be an hour or so of preparation: one page of A4 is about right.

First, attempt to write down why you need patent services. Do this in plain English. For example:

  • I need to stop my competitors doing X.
  • I have a new product that in launching in two months. We have spent Y on R&D.
  • We need investment. We have seed/series A/series B funding. We are looking at acquisition in as an exit in two to three years.
  • We have a few patents. We wish to monetise our portfolio.

Information that is useful to a patent attorney includes:

  • Your key markets (current and future);
  • Where you manufacture;
  • Your competitors (and their key markets / places of manufacture);
  • Your launch schedule; and
  • Your general business direction over the next 5-10 years (at a brief, high level).

If you have this information in pre-existing material (e.g. an investor or shareholder pack), you can provide this ahead of your meeting. It is worth keeping this high level and keeping as much as possible to publicly known details.

If you have a new product or idea, it may also be worth doing an hour or so of Internet searching and selecting the three most relevant finds. These may be supplied ahead of your meeting (e.g. send three URLs with brief notes – “This blog post describes something similar to the first step”).

If you can send this information, in confidence, ahead of your meeting then it is likely your prospective patent firms will do at least an additional 30 minutes of preparation before your meeting, and you will get better advice to compare. It also frees up time in the meeting to discuss strategy rather than go over these points. If you prefer not to send confidential details ahead of time, take your page of A4 as a meeting prompt.

Meet the people doing the work

A traditional way of law firms acquiring new clients is as follows:

  1. Prospective client meets charismatic partner at an event / on the golf course;
  2. A meeting is arranged with law firm via charismatic partner, who attends;
  3. The work starts and charismatic partner vaporises – a series of unknown associates impersonally deal with the work.

There is nothing necessarily malicious in this, some partners are better at sales, associates often do a bulk of the work due to the “leverage” model of law firms. It can, however, leave a bad taste if unexpected.

One way to avoid this is to ask to meet all those who will be potentially working with the company. Most patent firms should be happy to oblige. Be a little wary of those that refuse.

Look for a commercial and technical fit

A perfect technical match may be difficult to find. If there is a perfect match, there is often a conflict, e.g. the firm may work for one of your competitors. If you need to discuss sensitive commercial details in your initial meeting, you may wish to ask the patent firms you are meeting to perform a conflict check and confirm there is no conflict *before* you meet (or before you send them non-public information).

Sometimes you may get lucky and a technical fit may exist due to a recent client change (e.g. a past client was acquired and the work was moved to the patent firm of the parent company). This is probably the exception rather than the rule.

For a general technical fit look for:

  • Patent attorneys with a technical degree in your area of technology;
  • Current or recent experience in a neighbouring non-competing field;
  • Familiarity with at least general core concepts of your technology (if not your particular niche); and
  • Rapid understanding.

For a commercial fit look for:

  • Experience of similar size companies (e.g. revenue-wise) ;
  • Experience with your business model (e.g. software licensing vs. chemical manufacturing); and
  • General knowledge of your industry and market (e.g. at a Bloomberg, Economist or FT level).

Look for those that listen.

Agree on costs and timings in advance 

When you are obtaining cost estimates ask for prospective costs over the next year. Also ask to identify one or two key billing points over the year for costs to be charged.

An often heard criticism from companies is the stream of small bills from patent firms after a particular piece of work has been done. This is often due to the nature of the hourly billing module – small bits of work are often needed after an event of when miscellaneous communications arrive. Firms also wish to avoid having unpaid work sitting on their systems. One way to avoid this is to either include small future predictable costs in initial charges (firms often avoid doing this as it raises their estimates in comparison with other firms) or to have agreed billing points. For example, filing an application and filing a response are two normal billing points – you can ask that all others charges are also billed at these points with the substantive work.

Companies should also ask for caps or fixed prices for the work. Most patent firms should oblige if these are reasonable. This makes costs more predictable for the company, avoids surprise charges and often gets them a better deal.

Agree on workflow in advance

Patent attorneys charge for their time. Companies thus have a trade-off when commissioning patent work: they can save their time (e.g. engineer or C-level time) at the expense of higher patent attorney charges; or they can agree to do more on their end to save patent attorney costs.

For example, one substantial part of responding to examination reports is reviewing the cited prior art (typically 2-4 20-50 page patent publications). If a company wish to save on patenting costs, they can perform this work in-house (e.g. make it part of an engineer role). If a company provides guidance on differences and advantages (even if these are not put in legal terms), they can negotiate lower charges for responding to an examination report. If, on the other hand, engineer time is at a premium, they may ask that the patent attorney provides options or a proposal for their review (this should be provided at an executive summary level).

Similarly, to avoid drift, loss of momentum or extra charges, a timescale for work on both ends should be agreed at a high level. For example, it may be agreed that a draft will take 4 weeks to prepare and that engineers will review within 1 or 2 weeks of receipt. Similarly, it may be agreed that all official communications and filings are to be reported with 5 working days, or that engineers need 4 weeks to review cited prior art.

It is also a good idea to agree who is going to be the main point of communication on both sides, and whether any additional stakeholders need to be cc-ed by default (e.g. engineering managers, directors, secretaries, etc.).

This should not take too long to work out (e.g. a 30 min phonecall or a quick email exchange) but it pays dividends later on in the relationship (and avoids “surprise” charges cropping up).

This is a question that has been on my mind for a while. The answer I normally get is: “well, you just kind of know don’t you?” This isn’t very useful for anyone. The alternative is: “it depends”. Again, not very useful. Can we think of any way to at least try to answer the question? (Even if the answer is not perfect.)

The question begets another: “how do we measure success?”


For a company this may be:

  • the broadest, strongest patent (or patent portfolio) obtained at the lowest cost;
  • a patent or patent portfolio that covers their current and future products, and that reduces their UK tax bill; and/or
  • a patent or patent portfolio that gets the company what it asks for in negotiations with third parties.

For an in-house attorney or patent department this may be:

  • meeting annual metrics, including coming in on budget;
  • a good reputation with the board of directors or the C-suite; and/or
  • no surprises.

For an inventor this may be:

  • minimum distruption to daily work;
  • respect from peers in the technology field; and/or
  • recognition (monetary or otherwise) for their hard work.

For a patent firm this may be:

  • a large profit;
  • high rankings in established legal publications; and/or
  • a good reputation with other patent firms and prospective or current clients.

For a partner of a patent firm this may be:

  • a large share of the profit divided by time spent in the office; and/or
  • a low blood pressure reading.

As we can see, metrics of success may vary between stakeholders. However, there do appear to be semi-universal themes:

  1. Low cost (good for a company, possibly bad for patent attorneys);
  2. Minimal mistakes (good for everyone);
  3. Timely actions (good for everyone but sometimes hard for everyone); and
  4. High legal success rate (good for everyone).

High legal success rate (4) may include high numbers of:

  • Case grants (with the caveat that the claims need to be of a good breadth);
  • Cases upheld on opposition (if defending);
  • Cases revoked on opposition (if opposing);
  • Oral hearings won; and
  • Court cases won.

I will investigate further how these can be measured in practice in a future post. I add the caveat that this is not an exhaustive list, however, rather than do nothing out of the fear of missing something, I feel it is better to do something, in full knowledge I have missed things but that these can be added on iteration.

Cost is interesting, because we see patent firms directly opposed to their clients. Their clients (i.e. companies) typically wish to minimise costs and patent firms wish to maximise profits, but patent firm profits are derived from client costs. For patent firms (as with normal companies), a client with a high profit margin is both an asset and a risk; the risk being that a patent firm of a similar caliber (e.g. with approximately equal metrics for 2-4 above) could pitch for work with a reduced (but still reasonable) profit margin. In real life there are barriers to switching firms, including the collective knowledge of the company, its products and portfolio, and social relationships and knowledge. However, everything has a price; if costs are too high and competing firms price this sunk knowledge into their charging, it is hard to reason against switching.

There is a flip side for patent firms. If they can maximise 2-4, they can rationalise higher charges; companies have a choice if they want to pay more for a firm that performs better.

On cost there is also a third option. If patent firms have comparative values for 2-4, and they wish to maintain a given profit margin, they can reduce costs through efficiencies. For most patent firms, costs are proportional to patent attorney time, reduce the time it takes to do a job and costs reduce. The question is then: how to reduce time spent on a matter while maintaining high quality, timeliness and success? This is where intelligence, automation and strategy can reap rewards.

In-house, the low cost aim still applies, wherein for a department cost may be measured in the number of patent attorneys that are needed or outside-counsel spend, as compared to a defined budget.

In private practice, and especially in the US, we often see an inverse of this measurement: a “good” patent attorney (from a patent firm perspective) is someone who maximises hourly billings, minimises write-downs, while anecdotally maintaining an adequate level for 2-4. One problem is maximising hourly billings often leads to compromise on at least 2 and 3; large volumes of work, long hours, and high stress are often not conducive to quality work. This is why I have an issue with hourly billing. A base line is that a profit per se is required, otherwise the business would not be successful. Further, a base line of profit can be set, e.g. allowing for a partner salary of X-times the most junior rate, an investment level of Y%, a bonus pool for extra work performed etc.. However, beyond that, the level of profit is a factor to maximise, subject to constraints, i.e. 1-4 above, where the constraints take priority. The best solution is to align profit with the constraints, such that maximising 1-4 maximises profit. That way everyone benefits. How we can do this will be the subject of a future post.

So, let’s return to our original question: what makes a good patent attorney?

From the above, we see it is a patent attorney that at least makes minimal mistakes, operates in a timely manner, has a high legal success rate and provides this at a low cost. In private practice, it is also a patent attorney that aligns profit with these measures.

One thing I have been trying to do recently is to connect together a variety of information sources. This has inevitably involved Python.

Estonian Snake Pipe by Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

Estonian Snake Pipe by Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

Due to the Windows-centric nature of business software, I have also needed to setup Python on a Windows machine. Although setting up Python is easy on a Linux machine it is a little more involved for Windows (understatement). Here is how I did it.

  • First, download and install one of the Python Windows installers from here. As I am using several older modules I like to work with version 2.7 (the latest release is 2.7.8).
  • Second, if connecting to a Microsoft SQL database, install the Python ODBC module. I downloaded the 32-bit version for Python 2.7 from here.
  • Third, I want to install IPython as I find a notebook is the best way to experiment. This is a little long-winded. Download the ez_install.py script as described and found here. I downloaded into my Python directory. Next run the script from the directory (e.g. python ez_setup.py). Then add the Python scripts directory to your Environmental Variables as per here. Then install IPython using the command: easy_install ipython[all].
  • Fourth, download a Windows installer for Numpy and Pandas from here. I downloaded the 32-bit versions for Python 2.7. Run the installers.

Doing this I can now run a iPython notebook (via the command: ipython notebook – this will open a browser window for your default browser). I found Pandas gave me an error on the initial import as dateutil was missing – this was fixed by running the command: easy_install python-dateutil.

Now the aim is to connect the European Patent Office’s databases of patent and legal information to internal SQL databases and possibly external web-services such as the DueDil API

 

 

If you are looking for some data to help with marketing efforts Google Trends can be useful.

http://www.google.co.uk/trends/explore

For example, you can play with terms to work out areas of rising interest and direct blog posts and tweets in that direction. It can also provide a guide to the terms non-professionals use.

For example, I work in intellectual property. In this field talking about “protecting ideas” would likely get you more interest/exposure than talking about protecting “innovations” or “inventions” or “patents” specifically.

IMG_0179.PNG

Similarly, talking about “Brands” would likely get you more interest/exposure than talking about “Trademarks”.

IMG_0178.PNG

Have a play and let me know if you come up with any interesting insights.

The amazing @PatentSecretary has made my day by sending me a link on how to remove multiple authors from Track Changes Word documents.

This has been a pain for a while now. Firstly, Word sometimes suffers from bouts of multiple personality disorder, imagining me to be several individuals with the same name but with different Track Changes colours. Secondly, it is a pain when working in teams on a document for external use or review. It also doesn’t help that useful features are shuffled around with each version update of Word.

The advice itself comes from this very useful article by Shauna Kelly. The  bit about removing author information is set out below:

Q: I want to send my document outside the company. I want to leave tracked changes in the document, but I don’t want anyone to see who made the tracked changes or when they were made. How do I do that?

Word 2002 and earlier

In Word 2002 and earlier, you can’t. The author (or reviewer) information and the date information are permanently attached to the revision when the revision was tracked. You can’t change them, even in macro code.

Word 2003

In Word 2003, Tools > Options > Security. Tick the box “Remove personal information from file properties on save.” In spite of the name, this does more than just remove information in the file properties. If this box is ticked, Word removes the name of the author of a tracked change, and it removes the date and time that the change was made when you save your document. But it leaves the tracked change itself. All tracked changes and comments will be now attributed to an anonymous “Author”.

In Word 2007 and Word 2010

For one document at a time, you can remove the personal information about tracked changes. To do that:

  • In Word 2007: Round Office button > Prepare > Inspect Document > Inspect.
  • *In Word 2010: File > Info > Check for Issues > Inspect Document > Inspect.*

After the Inspector does its thing, you will see several ‘Remove All’ buttons.

  • The Remove All button for Comments, Revisions etc removes comments and accepts all tracked changes.
  • *The Remove All button for Document Properties and Personal Information just assigns the name “Author” to your tracked changes, and removes the date and time the tracked change. This is the one you need if you want to retain the tracked changes, but remove the author’s name and the date and time the tracked change was made.*

The Remove All button for Document Properties and Personal Information sets the ‘Remove personal information from file properties on save’ option for the document. So next time you save, your name will again be removed from tracked changes. If you don’t want that, then:

  • In Word 2010 do File > Info. In the ‘Prepare for Sharing’ section you will now see a note telling you that personal information will be removed on save. Click ‘Allow this information to be saved in your file’ to turn the setting off.
  • In Word 2007 and Word 2010 you can turn off this option in the Privacy Settings in the Trust Center. The option is greyed out and disabled unless (a) you have a document created in an earlier version of Word that used this setting or (b) you run the Document Inspector from the File (or Office Button) menu and choose to remove Document Properties and Personal Information.

The link-bait title is only half tongue-in-cheek.

Last night I attended a great little seminar on improving business-to-business social media use run by Bath and Bristol Marketing Network [I cheated a little – it’s a network for “marketing professionals” rather than “marketing amateurs”]. The speakers were Noisy Little Monkey – a digital marketing agency [who I now respect even more knowing they have an office in Shepton Mallet].

The main points that filtered through my fatigued post-5.30pm brain were:

  1. Identify your audience.
  2. Use images/graphics as well as text.
  3. Plan, test, measure, evaluate, repeat.
  4. Social media is not about conversion
  5. Identify the Twitter geeks who are going to push your content.
  6. Use editorial and event calendars to generate a content plan for a year.
Social Media Drives Growth!

Social Media Drives Growth!
CC: mkhmarketing


Here’s some more detail:

Identify your audience

  • Even better, categorise it.
  • Identify 5-10 groups and write a half-page “persona” for each group.
  • E.g. Michael Smith – manager of a software company – 45 – lives in Hereford with 2 kids.
  • Bear these “personas” in mind when writing content.

Use images/graphics as well as text

Plan, test, measure, evaluate, repeat

  • The tools are there – e.g. X Analytics, Twitter analysis tools like FollowerWonk etc. – build evidence and base strategy on it.
  • Prepare a monthly report that gives traffic/demographic/content statistics.
  • Systematically experiment with variations on format and content and use the above statistics to evaluate. E.g. What topics pique interest? Do images actually make a difference to engagement and sharing?

Social media is not about conversion

  • Sales come from phone calls, website visits, face-to-face encounters. Social media is the noise that pushes people into the sales funnel. It does work.
  • That said the pressure on pushy sales is removed.
  • Educating and entertaining become more important.

Identify the Twitter geeks who are going to push your content

  • As in most things, only 1-5% of a group actually drives conversations.
  • For example, on Twitter there are key individuals that are followed by many – if you were looking to get exposure work out what they like and what makes them tick. Find out what their interests are to aim content at them for retweets, comments and blog conversations.
  • You can identify individuals using tools – you can sort by individuals who have a large number of followers in areas you operate in who are likely to retweet URLs.

Use editorial and event calendars to generate a content plan for a year

  • You might know when IP events are going to be held. You might know when technology events are to be held. You can  plan your content (e.g. blog posts) around these.
  • Also you can find out magazine and newspaper editorial calendars (just google “magazine name” + “editorial calendar”) – you can have a yearly plan of when articles are published and fit blog articles into this.

A while back we looked at using “Assigned Tasks” to send tasks to other people.

This previous technique required the recipient to manage their own tasks. This may not be great if the recipient is over-loaded. It also does not allow the sender of the task to change the task properties (e.g. change priority to urgent or move to another date).

There is another way to manage people using Outlook tasks. This is by using shared tasks. How to do this is explained below.

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Setup a Shared Folder – Managee Computer

We will assume the person you want to manage is a “managee”. These steps need to be performed on the managee’s computer.

  1. Click on “Tasks” at the bottom of Outlook.
  2. Click on the “Tasks” entry in the left-hand-side menu.
  3. Click on the “Folder” tab at the top of the tasks view.
  4. Click on “Folder Permissions” (second to last entry).
  5. Click “Add”.
  6. Select everyone you want as a “manager” and click “OK”.
  7. Select the “Author” permission from the dropdown list and click “OK”.

Setup a Shared Folder – Manager Computer

You need to perform the following steps on the computer(s) of those who want to manage the managee.

  1. Click on “Tasks” at the bottom of Outlook.
  2. Click on the “Folder” tab at the top of the tasks view.
  3. Click “Open Shared Tasks” (third to last entry).
  4. Type the name of the managee or select from the list that appears when you select the “Name…” button.
  5. The managee’s tasks should then appear in a folder with their name under a “Shared Folders” heading on the left-hand-side.

Managing

Adding tasks for the managee:

  1. On the manager’s computer, go to “Tasks” in Outlook.
  2. Select the folder with the managee’s name.
  3. Then select “New Task” from the top.
  4. The added task will now appear in the “Tasks” list on the managee’s computer.
  5. It is recommend to add a “Category” that says who added the task – this will help the managee filter by sender.

On the managee’s side:

  1. If they go to “Tasks” in Outlook and select the “To-Do List” view (red flag) from the “Home” top menu they can see all tasks due in the future and past in a handy to-do list.
  2. The managee can then concentrate on doing the tasks due under the “Today” section (or those in the past).

The manager can now, via Outlook on their computer, edit existing tasks. For example:

  1. On the manager’s computer, go to “Tasks” in Outlook.
  2. Select the folder with the managee’s name.
  3. View the “To-Do List” for the selected folder.
  4. Double click a task to edit or delete (this will only work for tasks created by the manager).

Tasks can be reassigned to a different date, can be changed priority, can have notes added  etc..

Hide Private Tasks

If the managee is using tasks and does not want these viewable by everyone (e.g. “walk dog”, “pick up crack pipe” etc.) we need to create a private folder.

  1. Click on “Tasks” at the bottom of Outlook.
  2. Click on the “Folder” tab at the top of the tasks view.
  3. Click “New Folder” and call this “Private Tasks”.
  4. On the “Home” tab select “Simple List” in the “Current View”, select all existing tasks (using SHIFT) the click “Move” button (to the right) and select the “Private Tasks” folder.
  5. New private tasks should then be added to the “Private Tasks” folder (by selecting it on the left-hand-side before adding a task).

Let me know if you find any tricks or alternatives.