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Patdek, what problem are you solving?

I get asked this question more than any other, "what specific problem are you solving?"

Before directly answering this question, let's think about what most legal documents are - a combination of facts and arguments. To support facts, lawyers rely on documents and provide citations to those documents. The same is done for legal arguments, but the citations generally refer to opinions by a court or some other administrative body. A citation or pincite identifies to the reader a source and page that supports the fact-based or legal proposition. This is what lawyers do for formalized written communications.

We solve the problem of delivering document-embedded answers to patent issues.

What do we do in situations where a lawyer is discussing a group of documents with a colleague or client? If two people are just talking, one person will suggest the following:

look at the Acme article, page 4, 2nd full paragraph, the first two sentences. See how that describes XYZ?

Instead of describing where a person should look in a document, there's the alternative of a web-based screen sharing application. But even with screen share, what do you do when you want to discuss 5 different pages of a 25 page document - how do you navigate to those pages effectively? You can't reorder the document and what pages should you move to. What if you can't schedule a screen share or talk with the person via phone or in-person? And none of this contemplates reusing document excerpts in different ways at a later time, with different people.

Another option is to prepare a presentation or more formal memo. But now this is more of a lecture rather than a quick discussion to share some ideas.

It's this notion of discussing portions of documents to explain a reasoned conclusion that we're tackling - the less formal, types of communications that occur every day. For patent issues.

So how do we summarize what the solution could look like? Patdek promotes, at a high level, how to leverage patent documents - find, markup and share a patent document. A new way to talk in specific terms about a patent document, or some other PTO document, after you finally found the document(s) you were looking for. We're imagining what a post-search solution could do.

Back to describing the actual problem. Broadly speaking, the problem involves the difficulty of discussing portions of a document and reusing information from documents generally. I addressed this in the context of collaboration in a previous blog post

Collaboration is really about the orderly exchange of ideas. The exchange provides a focused understanding that moves people forward in unison. So collaboration around formal documents must enable ideas about those formal documents to be exchanged. To do that, the documents themselves become the vehicle to exchange ideas. The roadmap to move forward in unison is constructed right in the document. What good would a map be if there were a map of roads and then you had to consult separate lists of gas stations and restaurants? The ideas exchanged should be married to each document. With those ideas, those snippets, linked between the different documents having different snippets.

After studying this problem in different ways, there are multiple layers to structuring a repeatable, effective solution. First, is the document to be discussed known and does it need to be located? Second, what's the context of the discussion - in-person, via phone, to a group, is the person expecting email, will a screen share approach be acceptable, is there more than one document?  Third, what are the expectations following the discussion that will impact the document(s)? Factoring in the many different use cases, one common aspect surfaced just about every time. Lawyers don't discuss an entire document from start to finish. Just a part of a document, and different parts of different documents become the building blocks to reason through an issue. So the problem is how to support discussions based on parts of a document, while still allowing parts of the documents to be reused in different ways.

So that's a quick discussion of the problem we're addressing. In another post, we'll discuss how snippets consistently solve this nuanced problem.