Individual inventors, small business owners, startup tech firms – anyone who has an idea for an invention needs a patent attorney.
While anyone may file a patent application for their own invention, the system of obtaining a patent is complicated and fraught with pitfalls for anyone without extensive legal training and patent law experience. If you or anyone in your company possesses an idea for an invention, a patent attorney is invaluable to helping you to not only provide the best chance to get a patent but also in protecting and licensing your invention.
Most people who file for a patent themselves do so to avoid paying the fees that a patent attorney charges. But you have to ask yourself – how much is your patent worth? If you fail to obtain a patent at all, or your patent doesn’t adequately cover your claimed invention, you essentially have a worthless patent and wasted precious funds.
A patent attorney guides you through the process, including potentially filing a provisional application that allows you to present your invention to potential investors. By obtaining a useful, enforceable patent for you, a patent attorney provides value for your investment of time and money.
Let’s say you file your own patent application at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). What will likely happen is that in a year or so (maybe several years depending on the field of the technology), the USPTO will issue you a rejection letter. USPTO patent examiners often do this as their first action on a patent application. This likely will leave you frustrated and have you scratching your head as to what was wrong with your application.
An individual inventor would find it extremely difficult to respond to the examiner’s rejection adequately. If you have a patent attorney handling your application, when this rejection letter comes in, the attorney will respond on your behalf and make the legal case as to why the patent should be granted and can amend the application as required to move it through the approval process.
The USPTO has thousands of patent examiners whose job involves critically assessing your application and patent claims. They must follow the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, which is available online here: U.S. Patent Office Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP)
The manual’s current edition is 4,231 pages long and regularly updated with changes in laws and court opinions that clarify the patent laws. If an applicant fails to follow all the detailed regulations in that manual, the patent application will be rejected. Patent attorneys are intimately familiar with this manual and regularly communicate with patent examiners to get patents granted.
The claims in a patent application are critically important. An inventor is only entitled to exclude others from using the patent’s technology to the extent of what claims have been granted. If the claims are too narrow or too broad, companies can simply design around or invalidate your patent claims. Patent attorneys know how to craft these patent claims carefully.
If a patent application uses incorrect words in the claims, the application may be rejected or may result in a worthless patent. If the application fails to include adequate written support for what is claimed, it will be rejected. Even worse, your rejected application may end up preventing you from ever getting your patent because of the way disclosure dates and application dates work within the patent system.
Once a patent is issued, competitors may immediately start using the technology – either by infringing the patent or trying to develop a product around the patent claims. To enforce your patent, you have to monitor your competitors and take action. This often means filing a suit in federal court and spending years defending your patent. Until you convince a court, there is no recourse in enforcing your patent. The best way to fend off these would-be infringers is to have solid, well-written patent claims drafted by a knowledgeable patent attorney.
Most people assume that people must ask for permission to use the technology once they’ve been granted a patent. That is not the case. A patent grant is a right to the patent owner to exclude others from using the invention without the patent owner’s permission. This means that the patent owner has to enforce the patent for there to be any value to the patent. A patent attorney remains critical to monetizing your patent once you’ve been issued a patent because they understand the methods of enforcement.
The bottom line is that you need a patent attorney if you want a valid, enforceable, and profitable patent. The patent office has teams of lawyers and legally trained examiners reviewing your patent application to identify problems. Give your invention the best possible chance at being patented by hiring an expert who understands the patent office and the patent system.
Ultimately, as with any professional you hire to assist with your business ideas, a patent attorney provides value far in excess of the fees they collect when helping you obtain and protect a patent.
If you are in the market for a patent attorney, call Hankin Patent Law, APC today to schedule a free initial consultation. We work with national and international clients. If you don’t move forward with our services, we guarantee that any information you provide will be kept completely confidential.