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Patent Navigation co-founders James Billmaier and Charles Mirho.
Patent Navigation co-founders James Billmaier and Charles Mirho.

Patent Navigation is raising cash to accelerate development of its software that helps lawyers prepare patent applications more efficiently.

The Seattle startup just reeled in a $2 million seed round led by Voyager Capital. This is the first outside funding for the previously-bootstrapped company.

The fresh cash will be used primarily to bring on employees in sales and product development for TurboPatent, the company’s cloud-based tool that automates the patent application production and prosecution process while minimizing time, expenses, and mistakes for attorneys who prepare patent applications.

Drawing Tool

The idea is to allow lawyers to focus on drafting robust claims, rather than tasks like formatting or document preparation, for example. The 28-person company says it does for the patent attorney what CAD (computer-aided drafting) did for the architect.

“TurboPatent’s competition is primarily legacy approaches to preparing, prosecuting and managing patents, like using general purpose tools like Word and Visio that don’t know anything specifically about patents and how they are written and structured,” explained VP of Product & Marketing Dave Billmaier.

Patent Navigation has an experienced leadership team led by co-founders James Billmaier and Charles Mirho. Billmaier was previously CEO of Melodeo, a cloud-based media platform company that sold to patentnavigation112HP in 2010. He also teamed up with Paul Allen in 1999 to launch home-entertainment technology company Digeo, which was eventually sold in 2009 to ARRIS Group Inc.

Mirho, meanwhile, is a patent law veteran, having worked as a patent counsel at Intel and later as a managing partner of a patent law firm. He also has a computer science degree from Rutgers.

Other execs include COO Byron McCann, a veteran of the Seattle startup community who spent 17 years helping lead the Washington Technology Industry Association from 1994 to 2007; Chief Invention Officer Ed Flinchem, who helped invent the T9 predictive text input method; and VP of Engineering Ben Demboski, co-founder of the JOLT Labs startup studio in Seattle.

“The demands on the patent industry — the growth in patent applications; the need for more patent professionals; and the pressure on cost, quality, efficiency and security — make us confident the market is ripe for what Patent Navigation is delivering,” Bill McAleer, Managing Director at Voyager Capital, said in a statement.

McAleer will be joining Patent Navigation’s board as a result of the funding. Two other new board members will be announced later.

Patent Navigation isn’t the only Northwest startup finding success in the legal space. Seattle-based Attenex — which Voyager also backed — was acquired by FTI Technology for $88 million in 2008, while fellow Seattle startup Avvo just reeled in $71.5 million in funding.

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