You’ve heard the phrase “you get what you pay for” a thousand times, and when it comes to patents the phrase again holds true. There simply aren’t inexpensive or discounted ways to obtain a good patent on your invention. The key to that statement is the word “good,” as there are several ways to get a patent for very little money, but in the end those types of patents are generally worth about as much as the paper they’re printed on. There simply is no substitute for having a professional help you with the patent process.
Our phone rings daily with
people asking us questions about patents they have filed for using various
services that are generally referred to as quote marketing services” by
intellectual property attorneys. The services are referred to as marketing
services, as they generally do not provide any individual legal counseling to
their customers, rather, they are primarily a marketing machine designed to
create the appearance of patent protection while providing very little in most
cases. For example, services like
LegalZoom provide you with various forms needed to file a provisional patent
application. These forms are essentially presented to you as the framework that
you will need to prepare and file a patent application that will allow you to
monetize your invention. You pay LegalZoom around $99, and it appears that you
are on your way to being a successful entrepreneur with the great patent that
has licensing potential. However, nothing could be farther from the truth, as
what LegalZoom typically does is provides you with the forms to file a provisional
application (which you can read about in other posts on our site) that will
never mature into a valid or enforceable patent. Rather, this provisional
patent will simply sit in a drawer at the patent office for 12 months and then
quietly expire with no benefit to you as the inventor. Companies like LegalZoom
do a great job in helping you file this provisional application, but they don’t
seem to do a very good job of letting you know that you really don’t acquire
any rights with only a provisional patent filing.
Similarly, clients regularly call us and tell us that they’ve worked with companies like Invention Submission Corporation and when the dust settles they’ve spent thousands of dollars and don’t have any sort of patent protection that they feel is valuable. These types of companies actually help you file utility patent applications in many cases, but it seems many of our clients tell us that those applications are so poorly written and so poorly drafted in view of the prior art that hardly any of them end up being valid and enforceable in the end. As an example, we regularly hear that these types of companies provide you with a patent search that details how there’s nothing like your invention in the prior art, and therefore, they encourage you to go ahead and (and pay more money) get a patent application filed. However, often these patent searches that build confidence in inventors are poorly put together and don’t convey an accurate picture of the patent landscape or your chances of obtaining a valid and enforceable patent. This is a simplified way of saying that the searches convey false results, and therefore, lead inventors to believe that they have a high likelihood of success in the patent process, when in fact the truth is that the prior art prevents them from obtaining meaningful patent protection and proceeding with the patent process is a waste of money.
So what should a small business or entrepreneur do to make the decision of whether or not to go through the patent process? The best thing to do is to sit down with a qualified patent attorney for an initial consultation. Find someone that you can develop a relationship with, someone that’s responsive to your inquiries, and someone that’s willing to spend a few minutes of their time with you upfront without charging you. Thirty-minute free consultations are common, so use the 30 minute free consultation to evaluate the patent attorney and see if they’re a good fit for you. Look at their qualifications, see what type of educational background they have to see if it matches the type of technology you want to patent. Ask them questions about the patent process and see how clearly they explain the process to you. Ask them for a clear and understandable pricing or cost expectation for the patent process. In our experience, patent attorneys that do these things generally provide quality work product and keep their clients satisfied. There certainly no one-size-fits-all formula to picking a good patent attorney, but it seems that these types of basic characteristics give you a pretty good chance of finding someone that will work hard for you, communicate well with you, and be cost-effective.
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