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What Happy Meals teach us about keeping IP clients happy.

Clients hate paying ‘by the fry’.

Why do people love the pricing of Happy Meals?  Because they know what they are getting for one fixed price.

When it comes to IP prosecution the same principle applies: clients love fixed prices and they hate to be nickeled & dimed.  No one wants to pay for their french fries one fry at a time, and no one wants to pay for each office action, reminder email, reporting letter, or status update no matter how trivial. This is especially true for foreign prosecution of applications that are substantially similar to the lead originating application (patent or trademark) at home.

Great service means giving clients great work at the price they expected all wrapped in a very user friendly delivery.

For most clients,

  • price certainty is more important than rock bottom prices, and
  • ‘many tiny bills’ are extremely annoying.

Price certainty is especially important for good quality clients.  Good clients know that service costs money.  They do not expect free advice or work, and they know that quality costs.  However, good clients also tend to be organized and diligent.  That means that they expect to the know the cost of something upfront and likely have shared that estimate with other stakeholders (for instance, with the CFO of their organization).  Accordingly, good clients are particularly likely to be frustrated by budget over-runs.

Also, regardless of the total cost of something, you should be very wary of a snowstorm of small unexpected bills.  In my experience, a blizzard of small bills, no matter how reasonable the total cost, drives clients crazy.  If you are not careful, with foreign patent filings you can be billed by your associate for reporting every letter that they receive from their local patent office. Clients enjoy this about as much as they enjoy buying their french fries “one fry at a time”. It is extremely annoying and a great way to drive clients away.

The solution is to bill flat “block” fees for a given amount of work that ensures you have sufficient compensation to provide great service through the whole process.  That way, all of the little noise goes away, and you and your client and your associate can focus on what really matters.


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