20 May Better living through software Carlos de la Huerga turns burning ideas into burgeoning technology
MEQUON, WI. – Carlos de la Huerga is having fun again. And he’s doing it in an area that others have learned to hate.
Eight years after forming Telaric Alliance , Carlos de la Huerga is marketing software designed to make entrepreneurs’ lives just a bit easier—namely, create solid patents for their ideas by helping them sort through what’s come before (a.k.a. “prior art” in patent circles) and make the most of their search time.
Anyone who’s navigated the choppy waters of patent creation can tell you that coming up with a workable idea is the easy part. Writing a patent for it that is backed by ample research of prior art might be the most tedious thing next to drafting a golf cart on I-94.
“It’s a hugely laborious process to do this,” said Allen Oelschlaeger, a fellow Marquette Electronics alum who joined de la Huerga at Telaric in 1998. “It’s very time consuming, and it can cost a lot of money on the patent attorney side.”
But challenges were what people at Marquette Electronics (now GE Medical ) were all about, according to de la Huerga, who recalled fondly his days as vice president and general manager of the diagnostics division at a company that rocketed from about $3 million in annual sales when he joined in 1974 in more than $500 million when he left 20 years later.
“At Marquette, we did a lot of pioneering,” de la Huerga said. “I and other people enjoyed that—big challenges, big unknowns, discovering things that we didn’t know we could do and getting them done. That was what everybody at Marquette was trying to do.”
But the party got too big for de la Huerga, who preferred focusing on creating products over creating a nice look for investors. He still considers the old Marquette and the current GE good companies—just ones that don’t operate at his speed.
So, armed with experience in computer programming, product design, management and an entrepreneurial bug, de la Huerga started up Telaric in 1995 with his own funds. Also in his holster was a deep knowledge of Microsoft Word® and 20 years of pushing himself to innovate at Marquette, which led him to create a process for himself that would streamline the patent-writing experience and make it work for, rather than against, him. The results were Telaric Patent Retriever/Scanner, a program that automates the retrieval of patents and patent applications from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and Telaric Patent Examiner, which automates the identification of poorly constructed claims.
The man should know a little something about the process. Since patenting a portable patient monitor for medical electronics giant Marquette, de le Huerga has submitted some 40 patents and now is putting that experience—not all of it a walk in the park—to work.
“I figured if we’re doing this, and we’re having some struggles, there must be a lot of other people out there who are encountering the same frustrations in wasting their time and not getting the answers they need when they need them,” de la Huerga said.
Enter Patent Retriever/Scanner, with which users can cut the results of a search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site and paste it onto a form that automatically finds patent numbers, retrieves them, and arranges them in a miniature database. Beats the old method—download every page of a 70-page patent one at a time and print it off in the hopes that it pertains to your idea. “Oh, that’s death,” de la Huerga said. “You don’t want to do that.”
At least one aficionado of the patent process thinks he just might have something. “He’s put together a very nice tool,” said Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. “It’s very efficient.”
The University of Wisconsin in the past year has submitted about 200 patent applications, according to Gulbrandsen, who noted that the more homework would-be patent holders do in filing provisional and full patent applications, the better off they are. (Provisional applications act as placeholders for up to a year in the proverbial line for patents).
“If you don’t do your homework up front, you waste your money,” Gulbrandsen said. “It used to be that people could get pretty sloppy, particularly in filing provisional [applications]. You’re not helping yourself in doing that.”
De la Huerga said the product is not just designed for high-profile patent attorneys, but for independent inventors, as well.
“It’s painful to do [the process] really well if you have to do all this stuff manually,” he said. “It’s for people serious about intellectual property and patents who just happen to be on their own. We said, ‘Hey, let’s make your patents that much better and relieve you of some of the pain.”
Lincoln Brunner is a Stevens Point, Wisconsin-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to the Wisconsin Technology Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.