Should you hire legal help to file for a patent? Many people wonder if they really need an attorney’s assistance, and if it’s worth the cost. The patent filing process can be tedious, and for that reason, many people choose to hire a patent attorney to guide them through and successfully submit a patent application. While we can’t tell you which way is best, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to filing for a patent with or without aid from knowledgeable and experienced counsel.
Why is the Patent Process Tricky?
Patenting is a legal process that can provide protections for your invention for up to 20 years, which explains why the country’s patenting authority — the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) — takes applications very seriously. The patent process is tedious because the USPTO thoroughly examines your application to determine if your invention qualifies for a patent, works to understand how your innovation works and determines if it’s deserving of a patent or if it infringes on someone else’s patent. Patent officials will pick apart your application to ensure all of their standards and requirements are met, and it’s not a quick process. In some cases, patents can be awarded in as little as 18 months. Other times, you may wait up to three years to receive your patent. Failing to provide particular pieces of information, such as a full description or schematic, or not fully explaining a part of your application can delay your patent — or in some cases have your application rejected. Because of the depth of your application and the components involved, plus the time and expense (often $1,500 or more prior to attorney’s fees), completing a patent application on your own can be difficult and frustrating.
How Can an Attorney Help Me?
You should know that you’re not legally required to hire an attorney as part of the patent application process. But, help from a patent attorney can make a huge difference in the outcome of your application. During the process, an attorney who is knowledgeable of patent law can ensure that your application meets all requirements, including submitting all required paperwork and information. But, an attorney can also help safeguard your trade secrets within an application. Because patents often explain the ins and outs of an item, competitors can later use this information to create their own version. An attorney can help you meet the requirements of a patent without disclosing too much information and giving away the best parts of your invention. Because filing for a patent is a legal process, an attorney can ensure you navigate the choppy waters of legal language and protocol without making mistakes; attorneys are the perfect reference for ensuring you don’t misunderstand parts of an application that can lead to rejection (and wasted money).
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What if I Choose to File on My Own?
It’s ok to file for a patent on your own. In fact, many people choose to file for patents when they’re on limited budgets and feel like they can’t afford an attorney. But, if you choose to go the process alone, it’s important to be wary of these common pitfalls:
- Disclosing too little or too much information. Some patent applications fail to fully explain their invention, which doesn’t give patent officials a strong understanding of your product. And, in some cases giving too much information makes it easy for future competitors to precisely replicate your invention and produce it after your patent is up.
- Misstating or playing up some of your invention’s characteristics in an effort to fluff your application. If a patent official believes you’ve done this, they may reject your application.
- Missing information from your application. Failing to provide everything means you’ll have to amend your application, which could cost you administrative fees.
- Losing track of time on provisional patents. If you forget about the one-year deadline to file for a full patent, you could have trouble getting your patent or pay more in fees.
Whichever way you choose to file your patent application — with or without legal help — works, so long as you understand the ins and outs of patent filing. If you’re still unsure about needing the help of a patent attorney, consider seeking out a legal consultation from an attorney in your area to get an idea of what services they can offer.