How to Save Money on Your Patent Attorney
How to Search for Patent Attorneys
Whether you have invented the next world-changing product or you have invented something that will change just your corner of the world, finding the right patent attorney is critical in making sure that you get the credit (and payment) that you deserve. However, the patent process is long and complicated, and finding a good patent attorney is more difficult than finding a good general practitioner. You know what you need better than anyone, so learn the process and make sure that you find the patent attorney who is right for you.
Beginning Your Search
Avoid scams.Even though you may have invented the next big thing, you won’t be able to realize any of the potential process if you fail to file for the proper patents on time. In order to make sure all of your ducks are in a row, you need a competent, highly-trained professional. Therefore, steer clear of “idea marketing” firms. Invention marketing and promotion scams cost inventors and investors more than 0 million per year. Don’t let yourself fall victim.
Start at the Patent Office.Patent attorneys are some of the most highly educated and skilled professionals in the workforce. Not only does a patent attorney have to graduate from an accredited law school and pass the bar in the state where they practice, they also have to have a degree in a scientific or engineering field and pass a daylong exam administered by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Attorneys who pass register with the USPTO.
- The USPTO maintains a list of all active members of the Patent Bar in the US. You can find the list at . It is searchable by firm, attorney name, city, state, and zip code.
- Searching this registry is the easiest way to make sure that your prospective patent attorney is credentialed properly. Put simply, if they are a licensed US patent attorney, they are on this list. If they aren’t on the list, run the other way.
Keep it local.Unless you are an inventor based outside of the US, then you’ll probably want to use a local patent attorney. If you are based outside of the US (or you are in the US and looking for international patents), the firm you work with in your home country should be able to work with firms in the target countries to register your invention.
Narrow your list.Once you’ve found several possibilities on the USPTO registry, you’ll need to narrow the list to a group of attorneys who are likely to serve you best. Unless you have a recommendation from a person you have a good reason to trust, you should check out the reviews for your prospective attorneys with the established lawyer directories.
- The gold-standard in attorney directories is Martindale-Hubble, found at www.martindale.com. The Martindale directory dates back to 1868, and is the largest and oldest lawyer directory in the United States. If offers reviews of lawyers from both clients and colleagues, and contains more than a million profiles of domestic and international lawyers.
- Since 2013, Martindale-Hubble, lawyers.com, and nolo.com have been affiliated, meaning that the directories on all three sites overlap considerably.
- Talk with local inventor’s organizations to find even more specialized reviews of patent attorneys in your area. The USPTO maintains a list of local inventor’s organizations at .
Vetting Your Attorney
Ask how long your attorney has practiced.Experience is a plus in almost all areas of law, but this goes double for patent law. Nearly all of a patent lawyer’s time is spent in writing. Most patent attorneys won’t write more than 15-20 patent applications per year, so each one is extremely complex.
- The attorneys have to be conversant in the extremely specific language necessary to make sure that the patent application is accepted. Even then, the majority of patent applications are rejected the first time around.The appeals to emotion and theatrics that many associate with the legal profession are almost entirely absent from patent law. Each application is a blend of persuasive and technical writing that is reviewed by technical and legal professionals. Experience counts.
Ask your attorney about his scientific background.A patent attorney with a background in chemistry may not have the level of understanding necessary to write a winning patent application for a mechanical invention.Any time a legal practitioner crosses scientific fields, it creates a potential that they will run into difficulty getting your application approved.
- Consider scientific background a factor in your decision. It shouldn’t be an ironclad rule that your patent attorney has to have the exact technical background as you. After all, the patent attorney doesn’t need to invent anything; they just need to understand your invention well enough to explain to the USPTO why it is unique enough to be deserving of protection.
Find out what types of inventions your prospective attorney has patented before.This is one more way of understanding the level and type of experience your prospective attorney has. Patentable inventions come from all types of scientific and mechanical fields. A patent attorney who has specialized in a certain technical field for many years is more likely to write a winning patent application in that field.
- This dimension of experience can add additional weight to an educational background or even compensate for an educational background that lies in a different field than the invention you seek to patent. As always, it is a question of balancing several factors against each other.
Make sure you know who is going to be writing your application.This may seem more obvious than it actually is. If you talk with an attorney at a firm that specializes in patent law, then you may speak initially with one of the more senior members of the firm, such as a senior partner or an associate. Just because this is who you speak with first doesn’t mean that this is who will be writing your application.
- Junior members of larger firms often operate with little supervision from senior members. As a rule, the larger the firm, the less direct supervision of newer associates there is. If a junior member of the firm will be the one who writes your actual application, make sure that you are confident of his or her abilities.
Ask your attorney to explain the patenting process to you.The patent application process a is fairly long and complicated one. It often takes more than a year (average time is 25 months) from application to approval. Of course you want your attorney to be extremely familiar with the process, but the question can tell you more than it seems at face value.
- Patent applications are complex documents that nonetheless have to be clear, understandable, and persuasive. If your attorney cannot explain the process to you in a manner that is clear and understandable, will they be able to explain your invention to the USPTO in a clearly, understandably, and persuasively?
- Your attorney should also be able to tell you why most patent applications are rejected. If they don’t yet have a clear understanding of why rejections happen, then they are less likely to be able to write a winning application.
- This should also give you an idea of how your attorney plans to proceed with your specific application. For example, how long he will spend on the search for similar patents, how long he will review similar rejected applications, and how long he will spend writing your application.
Make sure that you understand the fees and billing arrangements.Some patent attorneys bill by the hour, some use a flat fee, and some use a hybrid of the two.Make sure that you understand what you will have to pay and how it will be billed before you enter into an arrangement with the attorney. Remember, as always, you get what you pay for.
- Although it is doubtful that any attorney would begin work without a written agreement, whatever type of agreement you and your attorney come to, make sure that you get it in writing and that you understand what you are signing.
Video: How to Find the Right Patent Attorney for Your Invention
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