I am writing this post from a faraway international airport, listening to a bad rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” followed by “You Were Always On My Mind”, beginning a twenty-something-hour-long journey home from a set of patent disclosure meetings. I do not get fully reimbursed for my travel expenses, nor to do I get reimbursed for the travel time, jet lag, or other inconveniences. I could just as well take the disclosures using a fancy web conferencing system, and I could save a lot of time and money, but I feel that it is worth doing.
There is a very big benefit to meeting the inventors on their own turf. Part of the experience is seeing where they work, smelling the air, tasting their food, and getting to know them in ways that does not happen over the phone.
The most important aspect of writing a patent application is communication. My primary job is to learn the invention. Part of that is working with the inventors to understand what is important about it and what is optional. This process often involves some critical analysis of their invention. Sometimes, I have to call their baby ugly to delve into the critical elements of the invention. This cannot happen without the inventor’s trust in me.
Having that kind of conversation can be impossible to do over the phone, especially with overseas inventors. Ignoring the telephone connection quality and latency issues, there are cultural and language differences that are hard to work out in person, and almost impossible to do so over the phone.
Part of the experience of in-person visit is meeting the inventors on their turf and showing them the respect they rightly deserve. I have made the journey, not them, and we can do the meeting in a place that is familiar and comfortable to them. Many overseas inventors for large corporations may feel that they are far away and forgotten from their US headquarters, and there is an important ceremonial aspect of making the pilgrimage to the inventor’s home country that does not go unnoticed.
This is my third visit to these particular inventors. I have been able to learn a little bit about their culture, spend some time in their environment, but most importantly, begin to develop good relationships that help me write a better quality patent application. I get better disclosures, better feedback from draft copies, and have more meaningful conversations that result in higher quality patent applications that I could never have written but for the in-person interviews. Sometimes clients recognize the importance of this, and sometimes not. But I recognize the subtle differences in how well I can write an application and that is enough to justify the costs.