‘I hesitate not to pronounce, that every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client’ – an unknown lawyer, early 19th century.
While the above is often regarded, cynically, as a self-serving proverb promulgated by the legal profession, for better or worse it is almost always true. There may be no other profession for which lay people are more inclined to persuade themselves that they do not require the services of an expert with years of training and experience behind them. After all, virtually nobody would dispute the same sentiment if the word ‘lawyer’ were replaced with ‘surgeon’, ‘engineer’, ‘architect’ or ‘pilot’!
And, although patent attorneys (in Australia, at least) are mostly not also lawyers, we are, quite rightly, generally regarded as providers of specialist legal services. One consequence of this is that there are people out there who wish to avoid paying our fees, and have a go at representing themselves before the Patent Office, and even in the Federal Court.
One such person is Mr Svetko Lisica, who recently lost his appeal against the rejection of his patent application no. 2012200955, somewhat grandly entitled ‘Universal Intonation System For Music, The Absolute and The Beyond’: Lisica v Commissioner of Patents  FCA 433.
Sadly, Mr Lisica had taken it upon himself to prepare and file his own provisional patent application (no. 2011903465), an international application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (no. PCT/AU2011/000257), and the Australian patent application which eventually became the subject of the Federal Court appeal.
I say ‘sadly’ because, although Mr Lisica avoided payment of any patent attorney fees, I estimate that the process he has been through has cost him at least A$8500-A$9000 in Patent Office and Court fees. This does not take into account any incidental expenses he may have had, or the value of his time, energy and stress in taking on the system. And he has nothing of any value to show for this exhausting experience.
To make matters worse, it seems possible that Mr Lisica might have had something potentially patentable. While it is difficult to discern from his various patent specifications, which are largely couched in theoretical terms more arcane than those employed by most lawyers and patent attorneys, there are indications that his musical theories may have practical application in the form of new instruments and computer software for assisting in the creation of musical compositions. There is, however, no sufficiently clear disclosure of any such practical, and potentially patentable, applications of the theoretical concepts.