Revolutionizing Patent Creation: The POV of Edge’s co-founder and Leangap Judge

Revolutionizing Patent Creation: The POV of Edge’s co-founder and Leangap Judge
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I'm Evan Zimmerman, CEO of Edge, which I co-founded with Len Boyette and is backed by Y Combinator. We make software that helps patent practitioners create patents, anywhere from two to five times faster with a dramatic amount of pain reduction in some of the most difficult parts of creating a patent, like drafting the long sections and working with figures.

And we work with patent practitioners wherever they are. They might be at outside law firms, whether they're small sole practitioners or at big law or in-house counsel. Whether you are a biotech company or a Fortune 500 in the semiconductor space, we work and make a product that's relevant for people across those different applications. The only thing that matters is that you are working on patents, and they are important for your business.

Demystifying Patents: protecting intellectual property

Let's take a quick step back, I want to help make a little sense of what patents are. So, why patents? The idea behind patents is the legal right to exclude. Let's say I invent something. You know, thousands of years ago we didn't have patents. They were actually invented in Venice in 1474.

Before that, the only way we could really protect an invention would be to either get the king to protect you or to keep it a secret. And that's one of the reasons we didn't have as much invention prior to the Renaissance, but the Venetians had this idea that, ‘hey, if you share your idea, which is a social good, we'll give you a temporary right to stop other people from copying your idea.’

And this was a revolutionary concept. It spread throughout Europe.

How much does a patent cost nowadays?

The idea of patents was perfected in the United States. So, the version of patents we have today is more like the ‘American version’ than the original Venetian version. However, the process involves disclosing an invention. It's a really long process. It costs, right now, on average over $10,000 just to get the application out the door.

How a patent looks in the USA

And it can cost many thousands more in the process of dealing with the patent office if you want to do a complex global patent, because each patent office has their own fee.

On top of that it requires incredibly specialized lawyers. Patent lawyers (in pretty much every jurisdiction) have to take a special test separate from the bar exam that they would normally have to take or whatever the equivalent is in their country. And they often have engineering degrees, with many holding PhDs or master's degrees.

It's a really specialized field with very high-end lawyers. And it's something where you're really driving society.

Innovation in Patent Law

There are lots of historical examples of inventions that really helped with technology diffusion and capital formation. And so, if you think about the industrial revolution, of course not every invention was patented, but a lot of them were, like the light bulb and the Goodyear Rubber Tire. Those were patented inventions.

And there are other examples of people like Samuel Colt, who were only able to get the capital they needed to even start their ventures. Thomas Edison is another example through patents. So, patents were really great ways on a society-wide level of stimulating innovation.

The telegraph's patent

The Future of Legal Tech

When you think about legal tech, part of why we started Edge was that when we looked at the landscape, even though patent attorneys are the people who work with technology the most, they actually had some of the worst tooling.

The USPTO website

You know, the average patent is written in Microsoft Word, and it's submitted through a USPTO government website that looks like it hasn't changed since the mid-2000s. So, the question we asked was, ‘oh, and by the way, the most common search tool for patents is Google.’ What we thought was, couldn't we make something that was better?

Edge's website

Something that really advances the productivity and ease of use for one of the most critical but underappreciated parts of the innovation economy. And with legal tech, we're really seeing a change in the way that lawyers approach technology.

Some of the technologies that were out there before were really process automation. And that's something that's really cool, but:

  • How much can you really charge for it?
  • How much value are you really giving?

A lot of the automation on creation is something that wasn't doing that good of a job and therefore not producing that much value.

Now we're seeing lawyers (which historically are ultra-high gross margin businesses) develop procurement processes like they've never developed before.

My Vision for Innovation in Legal Tech

I think that legal tech is going to have the kind of boom that everyone has dreamed of it having but hasn't really borne fruit yet. You know, legal tech is kind of the great white whale of venture capital because it's a trillion-dollar industry and where everyone knows they can be more efficient.

There's a fair amount of work that's repetitive, that's not where the value is. Like with patents, 90% of the work is spent producing 10% of the value. But you're required to do that work because without it you won't get the patent.

And it's the same thing with tons of other areas of law. Yet, we haven't seen the takeoff that people expected. A typical explanation you'll hear from VCs is that lawyers are just too risk averse as buyers. I think there is some risk aversion in the legal industry, but it’s better to never blame the customer.

I believe what hasn't happened yet, but is starting to occur now, is that people like me are revisiting our strategies and saying, ‘okay, we haven't gotten the uptake that we expected. What did we do wrong? What is the technology that we can provide that will produce so much value that the people in this trillion-dollar industry will give us the dollars necessary to not only make this a venture scale category, one of the largest venture scale categories?’

And the answer is starting to become clear, especially with LLMs, but also with LLM guided technology.

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