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Maximizing Your Experience with Patent Attorneys

Tyson Wilde -- Getting an idea from plan to patent can be expensive. But for those who believe getting the patent is an investment and will be worth it in the long run, there are some things you can do to minimize your costs.

Are you afraid of what it will cost you to obtain a patent? If you are an independent inventor, you might be. Large corporations may be able to shell out thousands of dollars without flinching, but when the money comes from a single income it's a different story.

So how much would it cost an individual or a small business to get a patent? Let's start with the fees from the U.S. Patent Office. To file a basic patent application the fee is $500. When the patent is granted, there is a $700 issue fee along with a $300 publication fee. There may also be surcharges if the patent application is over 100 pages or has more than 20 claims.

There is typically some communication between the patent office and the inventor (or the inventor’s attorney) during the review process of the application, and if the inventor's responses are late, there could be even more surcharges.

Now that we've established that the Patent Office's fees alone can be quite expensive, let's talk about attorney fees.

It would not be unreasonable to have a patent attorney charge from $150 to $400 an hour for their services. Some companies may pay $12,000 to $14,000 in attorney fees to get a patent application to the patent office. However, there are some attorneys who charge lower fees -- $2,000 to $4,000 total -- for their work, making the process much more affordable.

At this point you may wonder if it is all worth it. Ask yourself this question: Will owning a patent on this idea generate more revenue than what it will cost to obtain the patent? If not, it may be more economical for you to just walk away from the whole thing.

But for those of you who believe getting the patent is an investment and will be worth it in the long run, there are some things you can do to minimize your costs.

Unless you are patent savvy, you will still want a professional to prepare the patent application. A possible way to minimize costs is to use a patent agent rather than a patent attorney. Patent agents are non-attorneys who are qualified to prepare patent applications and typically have lower rates. Regardless of whether you choose an attorney or an agent to prepare your application, their costs will be worth it.

It is important to remember that not all patents are created equally. The worth of a patent is determined by the way in which it is written, especially in the "claims" area of the patent.

All too often, individuals file patents without the assistance of a patent attorney or agent and end up with a patent with unnecessary limitations. Competitors have no trouble getting around such weak patents, and the individual may lose millions of dollars worth of revenue.

Just because you hire an attorney doesn't mean that you don't have control over the costs. Well prepared inventors who communicate quickly and effectively with their attorneys will have the biggest savings. Do not approach an attorney until you have done everything else you can do.

Before making any major investment you need to do your research. Web sites like uspto.gov, inventorbasics.com, and others might be a good place to start. Prepare figures, write a detailed description of the invention, and do a patent search (uspto.gov). If you begin a visit with an attorney, and he/she begins asking you questions you don't have answers for, rescheduling another visit may be necessary.

Below is a checklist of the information you'll want to take to a visit with your attorney:

-- Title of the invention
-- Brief written description of the invention
-- Detailed written description of the invention
-- Descriptive drawings of the invention
-- Date that the invention was conceived
-- Names of the inventors and their contribution
-- Prototype, pictures, and/or video of the prototype
-- Description of background technology
-- Any questions you may have for the attorney

Answers to the following questions will also be helpful for the attorney:

-- How was the idea conceived?
-- Where was the idea conceived?
-- Do the rights to the invention belong to another party besides the inventor's?
-- Does another party have a license on the invention?
-- Has any part of the invention been published (on a Web site, in a magazine, newsletter, advertisement, etc.)?
-- Has any part of the invention been sold or been offered for sale? If so, where?
-- Who knows about the invention?

If all goes well, your attorney should be able to take this information and prepare a patent application quickly and cost effectively without compromising the quality of a future granted patent. Good luck!

Tyson Wilde is an experienced patent agent and inventor. He is also the author of www.inventorbasics.com. Visit his site for more patent information.

© 2006 Tyson Wilde

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