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How Do I Pick A Patent Attorney and Do I Need One?

Posted by attorney Bruce Burdick

It is customary for patent attorneys to offer either hourly rates or flat rates for filing patent applications. the hourly rate depends on estimated time. The flat rate depends on the nature of the invention, the expertise of the attorney and how organized and experienced the attorney is in filing applications. Some, like me, have been doing this so long (40 years for me) we have templates, software, and even online programs to assist us and can do one in a day or two. Others may take weeks or months, and thus much charge more. Some attorneys do nothing but draft applications and do so many patent applications (we call those the "patent mills") that they know on average how much attorney billable time will be spent and they charge a flat average fee, which might be between $5000 and 10,000. The quality is not necessarily related to the price, although when you get below about $5,000 you need to be sure the attorney is doing a complete job, as you are getting into the cut-rate area where some attorneys sacrifice quality to quote a lower price, particularly marginal operators hungry for business. Another thing to keep in mind is that patents are Federal in nature and the patents are filed online with a Federal agency. Also, with modern technology you can communicate easily and effectively with a patent attorney no matter where you or the attorney are located. So, while it might be comforting to be able to walk into a patent attorney's office and sit and chat, it is often better to pick a patent attorney with the technical background suited for your invention and with experience in your technology as that attorney can do your application in less time and that often translates to lower cost or better quality or both. Another thing to note is that patent attorneys almost always offer free initial consultation and so you would be foolish not to use that free consultation even if you decide not to use that attorney. In fact, that consultation allows you the chance to determine if you like that attorney (normally you will, as we all are pretty smart and pretty nice.) You can shop around, but shop for quality not price. It is going to be expensive but quality is what you are looking for, and it does not necessarily come from a big firm lawyer, it comes from experience, technical skill and organizational skills. The final thing to note is that for a decent patent application there is no shortcut. You MUST use a patent attorney to have a decent chance to get an enforceable patent. There is no way you can get up to speed on patent law and procedure in the short time you have to file. If you try doing it yourself, it will take you much longer and someone will likely beat you out. If you do it yourself, you ARE making a huge mistake and will almost certainly end up disappointed and frustrated with your inability to get a patent that will be respected. If you do it yourself, you will (75% odds) end up having to hire a patent attorney and then you will (80% odds) pay substantially more than you would have had you hired one earlier. I cannot warn you too strongly to get an attorney at the outset. If you ignore this strong warning you will remember it later and be kicking yourself.

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