Case: Patent attorney

Saving time and money

How do you get passionate innovators to say “no” and stop their own project?


Steve – not his real name – is a patent attorney at a large law firm.

He is always looking for ways to attract new clients and increase his revenues. Interested in artificial intelligence patenting software, he wanted to find out if this software could help him grow his practice.

The problem

Could artificial intelligence help him to bring in more clients and increase his revenues as a patent attorney? If so, what would such an offering look like?

The solution

He engaged with our START program to write a project proposal and business plan for this new offering.

During the first weekly 30-minute feedback session with his trainer Dr Floor Blindenbach, they discussed what Steve wanted to get out of the program. How much growth would he like to see to make this endeavor worthwhile? And how much time could he spend on this project each week?

During the other half of this first meeting, Steve and Dr. Blindenbach discussed his current customer base – founders of startups, IP portfolio managers, and research directors of large corporations - and why these clients were drawn to his practice.

They also talked about the alternative patenting options available to his clients. It seemed that his startup clients were drawn to a lot of do-it-yourself solutions, whereas these options were not that interesting for his corporate clients.

After this first meeting, vendor information was obtained, as Steve had to figure out if and how such software would enable him to reach his goals of bringing in more clients and increasing his revenues.

During the second weekly meeting, Dr. Blindenbach helped Steve to analyze his workflow. This exercise made it apparent that the AI software solutions that had been identified were not offering solutions that integrated with the specific value Steve was providing to his clients. While the software could do effective and speedy prior art searches, that was not what his clients hired him for. Nearly always, his clients had already done the prior art searches for their inventions themselves. So, the improvements and time savings promised by the vendors were applicable to an insignificant portion of his services and unlikely to draw in new customers or increase revenues for his practice.

During the third weekly session, after having had the time to think through these findings, Steve decided that it was not beneficial to pursue the opportunity further. The currently available software solutions would not enable him to make a significantly more valuable offering or provide enough benefits to his clients and his practice to be worth the investment at that time.

The outcome

Patent attorney Steve benefited significantly from participating in the START program. By following a clearly defined process, he was quickly able to reach a go/no-go decision, saving him time and money. Steve said, “It was a good exercise. Floor asked good probing questions that got me thinking. It refined my outlook on my practice and I profited from evaluating the opportunity.”

“What more, it is very useful to know where the field is headed. I now know what to look for and have a more nuanced position when it comes to these software solutions.”

Steve concluded, “I certainly would recommend participating in the START program, especially when the right opportunity comes along.”

The right decision?

When stopping a project, the question always remains “but, what if …”. In Dr. Blindenbach’s experience, it is better to stop and restart a project that has been tabled, than to keep a project lingering until the right opportunity arises. She coached Steve to write up the lessons learned and honed his focus when looking for new opportunities to significantly boost the growth of his practice.