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The Lone Inventor: Low Success Rates and Common Errors Associated with Pro-Se Patent Applications
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Author: Kate S. Gaudry

by Kate S. Gaudry

A pro-se patent applicant is an inventor who chooses to represent himself while pursuing (“prosecuting”) a patent application. To the author's knowledge, this paper is the first empirical study addressing how applications filed by pro-se inventors fare compared to applications in which inventors were represented by patent attorneys or agents. The prosecution history of 500 patent applications filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office were analyzed: inventors were represented by a patent professional for 250 of the applications (“represented applications”) but not in the other 250 (“pro-se applications”). 76% of the pro-se applications became abandoned (not issuing as a patent), as compared to 35% of the represented applications. Further, among applications that issued as patents, pro-se patents' claims appear to be narrower and therefore of less value than claims in the represented patent set. Case-specific data suggests that a substantial portion of pro-se applicants unintentionally abandon their applications, terminate the examination process relatively early, and/or fail to take advantage of interview opportunities that may resolve issues stalling allowance of the application.