Case: Patent attorney

Knowing what not to do

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, if so, what would such an offering look like?

The solution

He engaged with our  T4 0nline innovation training program to write a project proposal and business plan for this new offering.

During the first weekly 30-minutes 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?

The other half of this first meeting was spent discussing his current customer base – founders of startups and IP portfolio managers and research directors of large corporations - and why these clients were drawn to his practice.

They also talked about the alternative options his clients have, when it comes to patenting services. It seemed that his startup clients have access to a lot of do-it-yourself solutions, whereas these options are 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, Floor helped Steve sketch out his current workflow. It soon became clear that there was a mismatch between what the software solutions were offering and where Steve added value for his clients. Undoubtedly this type of software can do prior art searches much better and faster than Steve ever can. However, 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 a small and insignificant portion of his services and unlikely to draw in new customers or increase revenues in his case.

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 of value, at least not for now.

The outcome

Steve benefited significantly from participating in the T4 online innovation training 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 T4 online innovation training program, especially when the right opportunity comes along.”

The right decision?

When stopping a project, the question always remains “but, what if …”. In Dr. Floor Blindenbach her experience, it is better to stop and restart a project that has been terminated prematurely, than to keep a project lingering till the right opportunity arises. She recommended Steve to write up the lessons learned and keep his eyes open for new opportunities. Opportunities that have the potential to significantly boost the growth of his practice.