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Invention Analysis and Claiming:
The Inventor Interview - Part 1: Self-Directed Learning1

By Ronald Slusky

Ronald Slusky mentored dozens of attorneys in “old school” invention analysis and claiming principles over a 31-year career at Bell Laboratories. He is now in private practice in New York City. Ron’s widely praised two-day seminar based on his book, “Invention Analysis and Claiming: A Patent Lawyer’s Guide, (American Bar Association, 2007) will be presented in a number of venues later this year. For details see Ron can be reached at 212-246-4546 and

The inventor is the patent practitioner's single most valuable invention analysis resource. This column introduces a methodology, called "self-directed learning," that helps the patent attorney or agent make the best possible use of that resource in discovering the broad invention and its important fallback features.


Unless guided by some other modus operandi, a patent practitioner and his inventor will typically gravitate to the classroom-style model of information delivery we all grew up with. The inventor (teacher) determines what information will be presented, in what order, and at what level of detail. Yellow pad and pen at the ready, the attorney (student) dutifully takes down the information the inventor has determined he needs to know, in the order the inventor has decided to present it, and at the level of detail the inventor thinks will be useful.

This may all seem appropriate. The inventor has come up with something new, and the attorney needs to learn about it. How better to do that than to enlist the inventor as technology teacher? "I'm an empty (but receptive) vessel," the attorney says to the inventor. "Fill me with information." And so the lecture begins.

The classroom model is not, however, the best learning paradigm for patent work. We have specific tasks to accomplish, the mos...

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