Friday, February 22, 2013

The Patent Interview: Considering the outcomes

Guess where the Pillfold Sebastian™ and Pillfold Bordeaux™ found themselves last week? In the offices of the Patent and Trademark Office, where they helped me to illustrate the utility patent I've applied for!

It was very exciting to take my products in for a bit of "show and tell". I didn't know what to expect going into our  "interview", since my two design patents were approved outright - no discussion needed. I knew the interview wasn't going to be adversarial, but I didn't know if I was going to have to defend my claims (the parts of my patent application that define the scope of patent protection I'm seeking), or if it was going to be one-sided, where the examiner talks and my patent attorney and I just listen. In the end, it was a great meeting, and the two examiners we met with were extremely helpful. We walked away with some valuable information, and will be moving forward with our application, in hopes that my utility patent will be approved. Fingers crossed!

Although I wasn't terribly nervous about the meeting itself, I was a little uneasy about the consequences of the interview. What if they shot down my patent altogether? What if my claims weren't sufficient? What if they found a "container" that was just like my Pillbag?

Thus, I spent a little time running through different scenarios in my head beforehand, so that I could prepare myself for the worst-case scenario (which is never as bad as I've built it up in my head.) It's always helped me to imagine myself "the day after" an event/decision/crossroads like this. If I were to wake up "the day after" the interview, and they've shot down my patent, what will I do? Will I put up the money to start over? Will my attorney and I spend more time and money to explore our options? Or will I just scrap the patent and move on? Most importantly, are any of these options really that bad? Won't it just be a matter of making a game-time decision and moving on? Life will go on, and I'll either be closer to a utility patent, or not.

I used to do "the day after" game all the time when I had major lupus decisions to make - whether it was starting a new medication, asking for an accommodation at work, or making a major change to the way I dealt with lupus.

Consider my decision years ago to ask my company to go part-time. I exhausted "the day after" game, and came up with the following:

If I wake up "the day after" I've asked to go part-time, and my company's said, "No", then I'll have a decision to make about full-time work, as it relates to my health. At least I'll know where the company stands, and Johnny and I can start brainstorming other options (refining my request, seeking a new position, alterations at home), based upon the information I now have.

If I wake up "the day after" and they've said "Yes", then I'll have to make some emotional adjustments to working less, and some financial accommodations to earning less. And I'll have the responsibility of objectively evaluating the effect that working less has on my health.

If I wake up "the day after", and I've opted not to approach my company at all, then I'll have to wonder if they'd make an allowance or not, if working less would help my overall health, and how I'm going to face a day's work in the meantime. (And I'll probably make myself even sicker over the stress of not knowing!)

So in this case, it became obvious I needed to approach my company. None of these outcomes, except not approaching them at all, was so overwhelming or traumatic that I couldn't overcome it. In the end, I think it was juggling all of these outcomes in my head that made the decision seem so overwhelming. Separating them so that I realized I'd face just one set of consequences made it much easier to deal with.

Of course, post-patent interview, I wasn't faced with any of "the day after" decisions at all, since the meeting wasn't structured as such. It wasn't like an episode of "Shark Tank", where you either get the deal or you don't. The examiners gave us some constructive feedback, we were able to get clarity on our wording, and we know exactly how to proceed. A perfect outcome, if ever there was one!

1 comment: said...

Hi Sarah,
I just read your book and I have to tell you that it was the first time I felt someone understood my situation for a long time! I gave myself permission to let go of my full time work - and had all the reservations you described in your book. How did you reduce the workload with the hours? I am working part time but have the full time workload and can't keep up. Thanks for giving me hope and the permission to stop fighting.