Patently Prominent: Tiffin-based patent attorney pens one of IP Watchdog’s top blogs
A Tiffin-based patent and trademark blog called “Anticipate This!” was recognized last week as being among the world’s top blogs in the field, according to leading intellectual property commentator IP Watchdog.
The founder and principal author of the blog is patent attorney Jacob Ward, who writes from his office in the Laird Building downtown.
Ward has been writing the blog since 2006, the same year he opened his practice.
“Some professors have highly academic blogs and some people focus on specialties,” he said. “Mine has always been about reaching out to the general public to make it interesting.
“The AT! has always been about sparking public interest in patents,” he said. “The purpose of the blog is also closely aligned with our mission at Ward Law Office, to help independent inventors and small businesses.”
Ward said it’s important to him that entrepreneurs and start-up companies have an opportunity to thrive in the modern economy.
“We firmly believe that patents and trademarks should be available to all inventors, and not just be the ‘sport of kings,'” he said.
Ward not only writes a blog, but has built a growing patent law practice he and his wife, Kristi, opened in January 2017 when they moved back to Tiffin.
“People don’t know we’re here,” he said. “Or what we do.”
As a registered patent attorney in the United States and Canada, Ward can work with clients in any state and around the world.
“We’re not like other attorneys,” Ward said. “We’re more like a manufacturing center. We do counseling. We’re lawyers. But it’s not like other areas of the law.”
Ward said he’s never met 75 percent of his clients in person.
“I could be speaking with a client in the United Kingdom in the morning and in New Zealand late at night because it’s 8 in the morning their time,” he said.
Most of his clients are from the United States, and some reside in California, Florida, Texas or North Carolina.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “It really is. I have clients all over the world, really.”
His clients have included an inventor whose story was on “ABC News Tonight;” another’s story was a segment on the “Made in America” series.
He said 60 percent of his business is from the Midwest, which includes some local small businesses.
“We don’t have a ton of inventing going on in Tiffin, but there’s more than you might think,” he said.
Inventors range from people tinkering in their garages to small businesses and large companies finding new ways to do things.
The Midwest is changing, he said.
“We’re reinventing ourselves,” he said. “We’re moving away from the rust belt era into the entrepreneurial era.”
Ward said his work is exciting.
“I couldn’t really practice any other area of law,” he said. “I work on the cutting edge, but not all cutting edges are as sharp as others. It makes it fun.”
The work varies from assisting people with filing paperwork to introducing them to his network.
“By the very nature of what I do, I have a network of people who can help with other aspects of getting a product to market,” he said. “I’m more than happy to talk to people about what they need.”
Ward described his job in a nutshell.
“‘We help inventors’ is the easiest way to say it,” he said. “We occupy this special spot in the entrepreneurial community.”
Receiving a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gives the inventor exclusive rights to the product for 20 years. After that, the product is in the public domain.
“My job is to work with the inventor up front and identify anything patent-able,” he said. “The second half is arguing and negotiating at the patent office. That takes an average of three years. It’s a long and intensive process.
“I tell my clients to be expected to be rejected by the patent office initially,” he said. “Patents are like property. They’re valuable. So the patent office makes you jump through the hoops.”
When a product is advertised as “patent pending,” it means the inventor has applied for a patent and it’s in process.
“It’s basically a warning to the public not to copy it,” he said.
Ward said patent rules changed in 2011.
Now, the first inventor to file for a patent gets first chance, he said.
“It doesn’t matter if you invented it first or not,” he said. “That’s why it’s always good, when you have an invention, to do your due diligence and don’t sit on it.”
People in the beginning stages of research can take advantage of a few free services that allow an individual to research a patent without an attorney — namely, Google Patents, but there are a few others.
If the inventor chooses to look into getting a product patented, the next step is to call him to find out about the process.
Ward isn’t sure how many patents he’s assisted with in the past 13 years.
“Good question. I never counted them up,” he said, considering. “I would guess at least several hundred to a thousand.”
In addition to patents, Ward assists with filing trademarks.
“I’ve filed hundreds of those,” he said.
An example of a trademark is Coca Cola, he said.
“It’s an identifier,” he said. “That’s what distinguishes it from, say, Pepsi.”
The same government office handles patents and trademarks.
“We also assist with copyright occasionally and all the typical contact work that goes along with it,” he said. “Books, photographs, anything that has a little bit of creativity associated with it.”
But only about 2 percent of his work is with copyrights. Patents and trademarks are split about 49 percent each.
Ward transitioned from a career in engineering to patent law in 2006.
“That was right in beginning of the Great Recession,” he said. “There were a dozen of us hired, and all of a sudden the work slowed down.”
That’s when the blog started.
To pass time constructively, Ward said he began to research and write about interesting patents and trademarks.
“It was a neat sort of way to distinguish my practice from the competition,” he said.
Ward said there is competition, but there aren’t a lot of patent attorneys.
“We are sort of few of far between,” he said. “I’m the closest thing you’ll ever find to a small-town patent attorney.”
Although he said it’s a bit unusual to have a patent practice in a town the size of Tiffin, location doesn’t really matter when using electronic communication.
In the world of law, patent attorneys are specialists, he said.
“We actually have to pass two bars, the state bar and a patent bar,” he said. “We have to have an engineering or science background. If you think about it, that makes sense. We have to learn what they (inventors) learn and we have to understand the lingo.”
When he went to engineering school, Ward said, he had his current occupation in mind as a career path.
“Most lawyers get into the law because they don’t like science and math,” he said. “We’re a different breed.”
After graduation from Mohawk High School in 1996, his formal training was in chemistry as an undergraduate at the University of Dayton. Then he worked for Cooper Tire in Findlay for a few years while he studied law at the University of Toledo’s College of Law.
He began his patent practice 13 years ago, and worked as part of another practice in Detroit.
In addition to his Tiffin practice, he teaches patent law and patent practices as an adjunct professor at the same law college, and he’s a regular speaker at chambers of commerce, public libraries, small business associations, business incubators, technical associations and inventors’ clubs on the topic of intellectual property law.
“What’s interesting about patent law is I have clients all over the world,” he said. “My courthouse basically is in Washington, D.C.
“But here, I have a lower cost of living and lower overhead,” he said. “When I moved back here, I lowered my billable rate. The cost savings gets passed along to the client.”
“That’s how we grow this business and how we are successful,” he said. “At this point, most of our business comes by word of mouth.”
Since the office opened, he said, they have hired office manager Jenn Howard, and associate A.J. Wenn has started working in the office.
Also, they have hired two clerks. He has a part-time attorney working for the office in another state, and is looking to hire a second attorney this summer.
“We’re in a growth cycle,” he said.
“Americans are still inventing,” he added. “We’re still being very creative. It’s fun to be a part of that.”
Ward’s office is at 120 1/2 S. Washington St., Suite 207. Contact him at (419) 408-5500 or email@example.com. Visit the firm’s website at www.wardpatent.com and read the blog at www.anticipatethis.com.