I had many opportunities to talk with intellectual property service providers during my two weeks trip to Seattle. Some of these firms devise a way to improve price competitiveness. Generally, in our globalized world, jobs tend to move to cheaper-labor countries or regions. The IP industry seems to be no exception.
As an example, there is an Indian firm that undertakes patent prosecution work for the US patent applications. This firm provides (i) a patent application drafting service and (ii) a prosecution service package which covers from patent application filing to registration with reasonable fixed fee for their clients who seek to file patent applications to the US. This firm partners with the US patent agents for direct communication with USPTO (The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office). Most of the work is handled by the Indian firm to provide low-cost services.
Such a business model may not yet be common. However, cost-conscious clients will doubtlessly consider this kind of service as one option (Of course, we should consider the quality of their work.). Some day in the future, patent attorneys may lose their jobs to foreign professionals in cheaper-labor countries, before losing jobs to machines. Alternatively, some US firms may come to use such business model to improve their price competitiveness.
By the way, a Chinese firm I met which provides a translation service devises a way to improve price competitiveness by using low-labor cost translators who reside in the inland area. This is essentially the same business model.