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Fireside Chat with Bruce D. Sunstein

Bruce D. Sunstein is a patent & intellectual property law strategist for market leaders and start-ups in diverse industries including computer hardware and software, electronic circuits and systems, communications and speech, medical devices, pharmaceuticals bioinformatics, and mechanical devices. He is also an experienced expert witness, and arbitrator, in IP disputes.

We recently sat down with Bruce to discuss the intricacies of intellectual property law.

Q: What do you love the most about IP law?

A: I like the range and challenge that IP law involves, and the varying content. If I just start with patents, most people aren’t going to see me if they have ideas that they know are old because patents almost by definition are designed to protect things that are new.

One of the things about working in the IP space is a lot of times there are things that are cutting edge. Even besides patent law, there are many cutting edge questions involving other forms of intellectual property.

Q: What differentiates Sunstein from other law firms?

A: Our interactions with clients are based on collaboration.

It’s best in a conversation with the client, it’s not as effective where you say “Ok client, tell me your ideas and I’ll see you in a couple weeks with a document.” That’s not as good. If a client gets to interact on a continuing basis with the lawyer, the resulting product can be one that better captures what the client has achieved and the lawyer can have a better narrative of what the technology is about.

Patent lawyers might like to forget sometimes that the source of the ideas that come from the client, are from the client! They’re not from the lawyer, but what the lawyer can do in this context is to appreciate them and to find ways of expressing them that will be powerful in the context in which they are used. And that’s the lawyer's job.

Q: How do you help your clients find the unexpected?

A: In order to get a patent you need to convince the patent and trademark office that what the client has figured out is new and would not have been obvious. Another term for that is... it’s unexpected! Who would have thought that given what people knew, that they would come up with the stuff that’s in this invention.

I love when the client tells me they’re doing stuff that everybody knows is wrong. That’s the stuff that’s really inventive because sometimes that wrong stuff turns out to be extremely powerful.

Q: Rumor has it that you meet with potential clients for 90 minutes at no charge. Is this true? And if so, why do you do this?

A: Abe Lincoln said “A lawyer’s time is his stock in trade.” It’s his inventory!

Why am I giving away 90 minutes of inventory for free? And the answer is, I want to offer a potential client a chance to try before you buy. It’s a chance for the client to tell me what’s cooking. It’s a chance for me to get a perspective on what the client’s doing.

But I actually use that 90 minutes to try to develop a deliverable. I want to give the client a skeleton of a patent application that has at least one patent claim in it. After 90 minutes I make a point to give that draft to the client.

Some of the important groundwork has already been done and the resulting patent document can be created pretty efficiently. The client has a head-start and a feeling for the experience it will be to continue to work with me in putting together that patent application.

To learn more about Bruce or to contact him, click here.

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