Law firms that deal in patent law may handle hundreds of patent cases at a time. Each patent application can take years to make its way through the United States Patent Office (USPO) system and be awarded a patent. As the patent application makes its way through the approval process, called patent prosecution, there are many filing deadlines, documents, forms, drawings and statements to keep track of. Patent docketing ensures that all the deadlines are met and all documents are labelled and kept in the correct file, so they can be retrieved when required.
The patent application process generates a great deal of paperwork. As this paperwork comes in to a law office, it is the docketers' job to correctly label each document with the file number or name and to place it into the correct part of the electronic or paper patent file. Patent docketing also includes entering each document into a database so attorneys can easily call up a list of all documents in the application file and any dates associated with each document. For example, a patent attorney may need to see if any deadlines are coming up for filing a piece of paperwork with the USPO. The docketing database can be used to alert her of filing or other deadlines. Docketers must also scan copies of documents, create templates and forward documents to other law firms as required.
All patent law insurance carriers require patent law firms to maintain a docket that stores the patent application documents and alerts attorneys to any upcoming deadlines in the application process. This is to prevent malpractice lawsuits when a law firm misses a filing date and causes a patent to be rejected by the USPO. Many insurance carriers require, not one, but two dockets, in which deadlines are entered and calculated by two different people in the firm.
There is a great deal of specialized patent docketing software available to manage the patent docketing process. Programs can track actions and calculate due dates, as well as keep track of documents, schedules, audit logs and alerts. Most software programs also allow the docketer to add custom dates and documents associated with a particular patent, and many programs can keep track of dates for patent applications in multiple countries.