ChatGPT: A Limited Tool for Patent Agents, Not a Solution for IP Strategy

ChatGPT: A Limited Tool for Patent Agents, Not a Solution for IP Strategy

Wrenches on a gray background. The wrenches are arranged around the periphery of the photo.

By Andrew Currier

Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT are predicted to cause significant disruption and losses of certain types of jobs. It is natural to ask what effect LLMs may have on patent drafting. While some anticipate a “singularity,” I view ChatGPT as a powerful tool that requires responsible management, like an airplane or mapping the human genome. Despite testing it extensively, I find its patent drafting output clunky and lacking finesse. It may have potential for commodity patent drafting, but that’s not the focus of a highly skilled patent drafter. It does offer some interesting tools that can provide some very useful efficiencies for patent agents.

Just prior to ChatGPT’s launch, I questioned AI’s ability to replace human patent drafters. After using ChatGPT-4 for months, my opinion remains unchanged. It is a very long way from substituting patent attorneys with invention mining, intellectual property (IP) strategy, patent strategy, or portfolio management.

However, I’ve successfully incorporated ChatGPT-4 into my toolkit for some interesting efficiency gains, and I expect to find more over time. Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, shouldn’t be dismissed but embraced as valuable tools for patent agents. ChatGPT has enhanced my drafting toolkit, joining resources like dictionaries, search engines, and specialized software like word processors, claim checkers, and drawing packages. It’s remarkable to compare today’s resources with the pen and paper or Dictaphones from earlier in my career.

So here are six super cool ways that ChatGPT has been useful in my practice.

1. Summarizing the state of the art

Patent searches and Internet search engines remain essential for learning about new technologies. Well-crafted queries yield resources like white papers and videos for quick familiarization. Eventually, LLMs trained on patent databases will revolutionize patent searches. Meanwhile, ChatGPT serves as a focused tool, providing concise, targeted information.

Example Prompt: Explain how Large Language Models work as simply as possible and in no more than two paragraphs.

With the right prompts, proofreading and fact-checking, ChatGPT can be faster, more concise and targeted than current resources, making it faster for the drafter to learn the state of the art.

2. A dictionary, on steroids

The complete Oxford English Dictionary, thesauruses, and Fowler’s English Usage have long been essential for choosing suitable words in patent drafting. ChatGPT now serves as a great starting point before turning to these traditional resources for backup.

Example Prompt:  What are some generic terms to describe a nail, glue and screws?

ChatGPT also helps to clarify obscure rules of grammar that crop up in relation to patent drafting.

Example: In technical writing, is it necessary to say “The widget 10” or is it grammatically correct to say “Widget 10”, when the number ‘10’ references a figure. Is the use of “The” as a definite article necessary?

3. Generating example datasets

Software patent applications often benefit from hypothetical data to help illustrate how a particular inventive algorithm processes data. These datasets can be tedious and time-consuming to generate manually, but ChatGPT makes them in a snap. Just be sure not to include sensitive client data.

Example Prompt: Make a table of average indoor household temperatures for a house in Maine during the last month of January, where the house is 4000 sq ft built in 2010 and uses natural gas forced air central heating during a typical winter.

4. Writing first drafts of backgrounds of the invention

Drafting the background of an invention can be challenging, as you must avoid inputting sensitive client information into ChatGPT, however a carefully crafted prompt can save time and streamline the process.

Example Prompt: Without proposing any technical solutions, describe problems that result from mice infestations in a home or business

5. Cleaning up awkward language

Sometimes I get a bit tired when drafting patent applications and elegant phrasing eludes me. Again, if I can be careful not to disclose any sensitive client information, ChatGPT can help me clean up awkwardness that I know is present but cannot figure out how to fix.

Example Prompt: Make the following sentence more elegant: <<insert whatever you are struggling with>>.

Sometimes ChatGPT creates a better result, or at least an iteration that I can tidy up. Other times, the results are disaster and I throw them out. Even this outcome is helpful because if ChatGPT “breaks”, I know that the concept requires a careful and thorough explanation.

6. Rephrasing legalese in plain language

Recently, our firm implemented controls to ensure that our clients are also the applicants. This addresses situations where a corporation hires us, but an employee/inventor attempts to file the application in their name only. ChatGPT assisted in drafting the engagement letter language, which we refined. We then used ChatGPT to convert the legal language into plain language for our client intake package.

Example Prompt: Write a section for a patent law firm engagement letter that obligates the client to file patent applications in the name of the client and/or that individual inventors who instruct on behalf of the client acknowledge that if they instruct the firm to file the application in the name of the individual inventor, that we may deem the application to be owned by the client.

Commentary on ChatGPT

While none of these tools resemble sentient AI for writing patent applications, collectively they save time and improve work quality. I’m optimistic about further enhancing PCK’s practice with LLMs like ChatGPT, but it’s far from replacing excellence in invention mining, IP strategy, and patent drafting.

PCK IP is one of North America’s leading full-service intellectual property firms with offices in Canada and the United States. The firm represents large multinational companies, scaling mid-size companies, and funded innovative start-up entities. PCK IP professionals include seasoned patent and trademark agents, engineers, scientists, biochemists and IP lawyers having experience across a broad range of industries and technologies. Contact us today.

The contents of this article are provided for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice of any kind.