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How a New Orleans Startup Is Demystifying the Complex Patent Process for Inventors

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A New Orleans-based startup is working to simplify the complex and expensive process for securing a patent, a significant hurdle that can discourage inventors from bringing their products to market.

PatentDive’s proprietary visual-based software tool significantly reduces the time and cost of drafting a U.S. patent application, which can be a burden for inventors and small companies with no background in patent law or patent-application strategies. They often struggle with properly describing their inventions in enough detail to pass muster with strict patent officials and secure a patent that lets them market their product.

Founder and CEO Eric Leininger outlined the challenges that inventors encounter when applying for a patent and offered entrepreneurs an introductory course in drafting a patent application during a recent Tech Park Academy event at the Louisiana Technology Park.

Ideas to Implementation

An inventor and entrepreneur, Leininger has more than a decade of computer programming experience, holds a Ph.D. in neurobiology from Tulane University and is a USPTO-registered patent agent.

The rules and regulations for obtaining patents are quite complex, Leininger says, and overcoming this lack of understanding requires inventors to invest in one-on-one educational training with a patent professional. But working with a patent professional can be both costly and time-consuming. “Most entrepreneurs have more ideas than time,” he says.

The PatentDive application lets users create highly detailed applications, or disclosures, with a simple drag-and drop interface. Users can then quickly upload, dissect and label drawings and models of inventions. The software easily break downs an invention into its component parts and uses, then automatically generates patent documents. Once complete, users receive a USPTO-compliant application in PDF form.

Dive School

The PatentDive product has an educational component built in that helps users learn skills and strategies to ensure their patent is awarded. Participants take part in Dive School, an educational series that guides users on each step of the application process. The company provides an expert trainer who checks in periodically with each customer at important points along the way to ensure they are progressing as they should.

Dive School uses an elaborate and engaging analogy based on the idea of the patent examiner as a “kraken” sea monster and well-constructed details of the patent application as “missiles” able to defeat it. “There’s one person who you have to beat, and that’s the patent examiner at the Patent Office, but they have all sorts of defenses,” Leininger says.

The company has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to help expand its educational efforts using the product.

The Invention Game

PatentDive has also developed an educational game to teach customers how to create a patent application, from product concept to the final paperwork.

Users start by rolling dice that specify different components of an invention — lipstick, an electrical outlet, a camera and a light, in one example — and brainstorming an invention based on an imaginary combination of the four components. The mock invention is then used to move through the patent process using the software tool. “With that invention, we draft an application all the way through the claim,” he says. “You could actually submit this to the patent office.”

The company currently has a monthly subscription model, Leininger says, because it has found that for most companies inventing is something that happens all the time rather than as a one-off experience.

“We’re trying to get you to not bundle up all your information at once and bring it to somebody, but to use the app on a regular basis and collect your information, the intellectual property, the value of your company, and submit it when you’re ready,” he says.

Stephen Loy