Anyone here have experience filing their own Utility Patents? I’m happy to pay a Patent Attorney a flat 1,800.00 to do the primary search. But I'm unwilling to pay 5k-$ 15k for the application and work.
Can this be done without an attorney? I am highly suspicious of those companies who are willing to "help inventors!! " for a fee.
There has been a lot of talk over the years about overhauling the patent system. One of the problems with it is that it doesn’t protect the little guy very well.
For one thing, there are no patent police. If someone infringes on your patent, you have to find out about it on your own. And when you do find out about it, nothing happens. Like I said, there are no patent police. You can write a letter to the company or individual infringing on your patent, but if they don’t honor your patent at that point, you have to take legal action yourself. That means hiring your own lawyers and paying your own court fees.
This has caused some large companies to adopt the strategy of basically lawyering you to death. They will use every legal trick in the book to drag things out and cost you as much as possible in lawyer and court fees. Most little guys can’t afford this financially, and just give up.
If you are reluctant to shell out $5k for the patent, how willing are you going to be to spend possibly hundreds of thousands on fees spread out over several years to defend your patent?
Many small companies don’t even consider patents to be worth the cost of defending them. Big companies have deep pockets, and they can just write off these costs as part of doing business. For individuals and small companies though, the cost to defend the patent may just be too great.
That said, defending your own patent is possible. Just be aware that it can be very, very, very difficult.
I’m an engineer and I don’t have much legal knowledge, but my understanding of the patent process is that trying to do it without an attorney is very foolish. The patent has to be described in very precise legal language. For example, if you make the patent too detailed, then all someone needs to do is change some inconsequential detail and they can claim they don’t fall under your patent. On the other hand, make it too vague and all-encompassing, and it won’t be specific enough to be enforceable. You need an attorney.
Rather than searching for a company that markets itself to inventors, try calling a local law firm and asking them if they have someone on staff who does patents or if they can recommend another lawyer who does.
I don’t have direct experience with utility patents, but I work with people who do. I agree that it often comes down to who is willing to spend how much money. I have seen some cases where a patent disagreement was settled by one company buying the other and then dropping the lawsuit against itself.
FWIW, I have some experience with writing legal documents without a lawyer, mostly things like sales contracts. I have found that this does indeed save a lot of money in legal fees, as long as nobody involved tries to make a fuss and challenge it. But when that 1-in-100 case comes along where you do have a dispute, you can find yourself up a creek because of three things: #1 It would cost a lot to take the issue to court. #2 What you stand to gain from doing so might be small. #3 Your document might be poorly written and won’t hold up. Please note that #3 can still be true even if you did hire a lawyer. Lawyers are not immune to making mistakes.* It’s not a pass-fail situation. You might be able to write a D+ document yourself whereas the lawyer would write a B- document, and both of you would lose to the big multinational corporation who hires a team of lawyers to write an A+ document.
It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. That’s pretty much true both with a lawyer and without one.
Here’s an example. A company, which I hired, had their lawyer write a blank sales contract for them around 2005 and the lawyer made sure it complied with all the relevant state laws that existed in 2005. Ten years later, they were still using that same blank contract for all their sales. Meanwhile, the state law had changed and the contract didn’t comply with the new law. Specifically, Oregon has a law which is intended to prevent contractors from cheating their customers. The law specifies terms which must be included in certain sales contracts (and terms which are prohibited), even going so far as to specify certain words which must be included verbatim, and even a minimum font size for those words. The law was revised about ten years ago and the changes were significant. The verbatim language was completely rewritten. This company was still using the old version. Meanwhile, they had used the contract literally thousands of times and nobody said anything because there weren’t any disputes that went to court. OTOH, there’s a famous case in Oregon where a contractor built a million-dollar building for a deadbeat customer, took them to court to collect the money, and lost the court battle despite the fact that their sales contract had been written by a lawyer. The judge ruled that the sales contract used the parent company’s name while only the daughter company was properly licensed under state law, therefore the contract was void, and the subsequent lien filed by the contractor was also void. The customer got away with refusing to pay the million dollars.
It can be done without an agent, and you’re right to be wary of those “Invention Submission” type places; they’re nearly purely a scam.
But as others have said, it’s a hard process. And it’s not just the legal writing, a patent is the bizarre love child of legal writing and technical writing, and messing up either side of that can bite you in the ass.
The most important thing is to be honest with yourself about the financial prospects for your invention: Will you actually make any real money off this? If you can’t see making enough to even cover the fees you mention above, you might as well not bother, but if you really think this is the next million/billion dollar idea, then you should pay the money needed to do it right.
If it’s somewhere in the middle, then you might consider just trying to sell the idea to a company in the industry, and let them worry about it. Your name would still be on the patent as the inventor, so you’d have bragging rights, but you wouldn’t have to deal with all the headaches.
As an attorney with some technical knowledge, I wouldn’t dream of trying to file for a utility patent on my own. A design patent, maybe. Is it possible? Yes. It is advisable? No. And e_c_g notes that it probably won’t do you any good anyway, unless you plan to sell the rights.
As said above, the patent system is not that useful for the individual inventor unless they are starting up their own business using the technology or they hit lottery odds and manage to patent something big companies want to license. Often, it would be cheaper in the long run for big companies to work around your patent or flat out ignore you rather than license anything.
The other misconception about patents is that it does not grant you the right to produce or do anything. It is purely a right to exclude others from doing what is covered by the claims in your patent.
You creating, selling, or manufacturing the invention described in your patent could still be infringing on any number of other patents out there.
If you can’t afford 15K to apply for the patent, you can’t afford to defend the patent either and it’s useless to you.
From my experience in a startup that had a patent, the only value of the patent was to allow the owner to sell the core IP of the company for chump change to a much bigger company after he went bankrupt trying to compete with them.
As others have pointed out patent monopolies in the US are of minimal use for small organizations, and have been weaponized to the point that you may want to consider defensive publication, or patent sh**ing.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, due to the massive divergence from the original purpose of patents, this can often be a very important way of actually protecting on-self from future claims against your own inventions by others.
While I am not a lawyer, you should probably talk to one about this option. There are commercial defensive publication services that can be cheaper than a self application, but even an abandoned application may be helpful to protect you from infringement claims from the patent troll industry if you intend to actually produce products based on your ideas.
I assumed the same, but apparently the big IP sources are required to be referenced under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. As I am not a lawyer I don’t know how much this is implemented but some of these services provide editors which will correct common errors. I would bet this only happens with the big services, but this is purely a guess.
I just wouldn’t rule them out with the belief that an abandoned application is more visible but I can’t comment on other possible advantages. I would look at the costs and the services before making a decision.
Well, all I can say is that in looking at search reports from many different offices, the vast majority of citations I’ve seen are from national patent offices. The next largest group would be technical journals. So there’s that.