Cheap $ upfront - but the time cost is steep. Invest in a good DIY guide. DIY is only recommended for inventors who have the time, organization, and self-discipline it takes to see a patent application through from beginning to end - which typically takes anywhere from 1-3 years. Excellent writing skills is a must. Expertise in the field of the invention is also important. Pay attention to deadlines - missing them are expensive, and can be fatal to your invention. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers free help in the form of hotlines, and website information. Examiners will also help inventors (somewhat), although the self-representing inventor must be aware that help from the USPTO and the Examiners is not necessarily directed at helping the inventor get the broadest patent protection, which may result in a patent with narrow protection that is easy to design around.
Patent Attorneys and Patent Agents
Both can prepare and prosecute patent applications through the USPTO, however the patent attorney can perform other related services, such as draw up assignment agreements (agents cannot perform legal services), and more importantly, are generally better at persuasive writing and arguing. Attorneys are also mindful of post-registration issues, such as infringement lawsuits, and so may have different strategies when preparing and prosecuting an application. Patent attorneys are generally more expensive than patent agents, however those not located in large cities tend to be price competitive with agents. Attorneys can also help coordinate licensing and marketing the invention.
Invention Promotion Companies
While purporting to be a "one stop shop" providing patenting, marketing, and licensing, the Federal Trade Commission receives thousands of complaints annually by inventors who lost thousands of dollars to unscrupulous companies that provided expensive and overly optimistic marketing reports, and still more expensive patenting and marketing services. Their track records are poor -very few clients reach any level of success- and by law, these companies are supposed to provide you with information as to their success rate - but many inventors are unaware they should even ask for this information. No one can guarantee success - and sadly, invention promotion companies over simplify and exaggerate the success path of any given invention. They do not make money if the inventor's invention sells - they make their money by charging the inventor for reports and other services.
Marketing and Selling Your Invention - Strategies
Don't wait for the patent to issue - as soon as you file your application, your invention is "patents pending" and you should immediately start trying to get your product out to market. Two possible routes: sell to a big company for them to make it and sell, or sell it yourself (either via your own store, or through other retailers). In either case, you will need to spend some money to convince others to invest in the invention. Have a good working prototype to show, have good drawings and a write up, and apply for a patent and maybe a trademark if you have any money for the latter (it's expensive). Don't rely on Craigslist - because it is hit or miss and caters to bargain hunters who may not be interested in paying you a fair market rate for your invention. Get some free press - magazines and newspapers are always looking for local interest stories.
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