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If you've ever had a great idea, then you might have considered filing a patent. However, filing a patent is difficult. There are many different kinds of patents and types of intellectual property (IP). To make sure you protect your IP with the right type of patent, you should hire a patent lawyer.
Patent attorneys specialize in intellectual property law. They can help you file patents, trademarks, service marks, and anything else related to your IP. A patent lawyer can also help you file a lawsuit if someone infringes on your patent. Discover how to find the best patent attorney, and learn about the benefits of protecting your intellectual property.
Why Hire a Patent Lawyer?
Most people don't realize how complicated filing a patent can be. There are several steps to successfully filing one, and it can be very easy to have your patent denied. This puts your intellectual property at risk. Some of the steps to file a patent include:
- Deciding if your idea or invention is eligible for a patent
- Documenting your IP; you will need forms, drawings, and application documents
- Doing patent research. This includes researching American patents and foreign patents
- Filling out your patent applications
- Paying any required fees
- Dealing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) examiners
If you want to make these steps much easier to follow, hire a patent attorney. Patent attorneys understand the full process of applying for and receiving a patent. They can help ensure that your patent is approved. Also, if your patent is denied, they will know how to appeal the decision and make any adjustments necessary for approval.
A top patent lawyer can also help you avoid common mistakes related to your patent. This is one of the biggest pitfalls of not having a patent attorney. Common mistakes you may make without an attorney include:
- Relying on a provisional patent instead of seeking a full patent
- Giving too much information and putting your IP at risk
- Filling out your application with inaccurate or incomplete information
- Failing to acquire investors or scaring investors away
The right patent lawyer will guide you past these mistakes. They will aid you in earning your patent and protecting your invention or idea.
A patent lawyer will also be responsible for many important legal tasks. Some of these tasks can include:
- Patent Search: A patent search is the first step to filing a patent. You must make sure that your patent will be for a unique invention or idea. Your lawyer will perform a patent search to make sure there are no existing patents for inventions similar to your own. This can be very complicated. It requires understanding how to navigate multiple patent databases. For example, your attorney will need to search both the USPTO and Google databases, as well as foreign patent registries.
- Provisional Patent: To protect your invention, your attorney will file a provisional patent. This establishes first rights to your idea or invention without having to go through the full patent process. Provisional patents come with certain restrictions that your lawyer will understand. For instance, provisional patents will last for twelve months. After twelve months, your provisional patent expires and your IP will no longer be protected. During this period, your attorney will take the steps to achieve a full patent.
Patent Pending: Most people assume marking their products with patent pending protects them from infringement. This is not the case. Patent pending only means that you have applied for a patent. Your attorney will be able to advise you on how to protect your invention while you are waiting for your patent to be granted.
Utility Patent Utility patents are what most people mean when they say the word "patent." A utility patent can be used for several purposes. Commonly, they are used to protect machines, manufacturing processes, chemical compositions, and manufacturing articles. Earning a utility patent is often much more difficult than getting a patent for other forms of intellectual property. For example, many utility patents require that you submit technical drawings. An experienced patent lawyer will know the best way to be approved for a utility patent.
Patent Infringement: Maybe the most important job of a patent lawyer is handling patent infringement cases. Infringement is when another person uses your IP as their own, even if you have filed and been improved for a patent. As you might imagine, patent infringement cases can be very difficult. Winning an infringement case requires several crucial steps. First, you must prove you are the patent holder. Second, you must prove the defendant infringed on your IP. Finally, it needs to be shown that this infringement caused you damage. This is usually monetary damage or damage to your reputation. Patent lawyers must regularly try patent infringement cases. The right lawyer for you will be prepared for this possibility.
How to Find the Best Patent Lawyer
Once you've decided to hire a patent attorney, you need to know where to find the best one available. This can be hard if you've never had to hire a patent attorney before. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to find the best patent attorney for your job:
- First, you must know your needs. IP law is a broad category. It includes business, entertainment, and copyright law. You need to know what area of IP law applies to your invention. This will let you know what kind of patent and what type of patent lawyer you need.
- Second, you need to do some research. There are thousands of patent lawyers working today and you only need one. Identify the best patent lawyers in your city that specialize in the area of IP law related to your patent. This can usually be done with an online service.
- Finally, once you've narrowed down your options for a patent lawyer, it's time for an interview. Check your lawyer's qualifications. Ask them about past clients and the patents they needed. Find out if they have the knowledge needed to help you secure your patent. After the interview process, you should easily be able to find a top patent lawyer
Some other tips for finding a patent lawyer include:
- Referrals: Ask your friends and family if they've ever hired a patent lawyer. If so, ask them about their experiences. Your contacts may be able to refer you to a patent attorney that's right for your specific job.
- Search Around: Thanks to the internet, patents are now filed electronically. This means you don't necessarily need a lawyer who is actually in your city. You can work with a patent lawyer located almost anywhere in the country. Don't let your physical location stop you from finding a great lawyer.
- Work with an Enthusiastic Lawyer: You're excited about your idea or invention. Your attorney should be too. Try to find a lawyer who understands the quality of your idea and will work hard to secure your patent.
Questions for Your Patent Lawyer
As mentioned, interviewing your attorney is an important part of the hiring process. This means that you need to ask your attorney the right questions. With the right questions in mind, you'll be able to hire the right attorney. Questions to ask your patent attorney include:
- Do You Focus Only on IP Law? It's important to hire an attorney who practices IP law exclusively. A lawyer who does not focus on IP law may miss steps when filing your patent. This may lead to a denial. Patent attorneys who only practice IP law will be more effective at securing your patent.
- Do You Have Experience with Small Clients? Large patent clients and small patent clients have very different needs. An attorney who primarily works with large clients may not be able to give you the attention you deserve. Try to find an attorney who works with a mix of large and small clients.
- Do You Have Litigation Experience? Your patent will be subject to a challenge period before being approved. It is also common for patents to be brought into litigation. Ask your attorney if he or he has experience in these legal areas. The right attorney will be able to defend your patent from both challenges and litigation.
- How Do You Interact with Clients? Some attorneys, who believe they don't need client input once hired, may cut you out of the application process. Ask your attorney if they will keep you involved. How often will you meet? Will they contact you regularly? Make sure your patent attorney believes in collaboration.
- Have You Ever Been a USPTO Examiner? Law firms that hire patent attorneys look for those with backgrounds as USPTO examiners. You should too. A lawyer who understands all sides of patent law will know the most effective way to secure your patent. Although this isn't required, it can be beneficial.
There are also many factors to consider when hiring a patent attorney. A few questions you should contemplate before hiring a patent lawyer include:
- Is a Patent Necessary? There are only certain situations that require a patent. Unless your idea or invention is truly unique, you might not need a patent.
- What About Patent Challenges? Many patents are challenged. Sometimes this is a nuisance and sometimes this is legitimate. Think about the likelihood that your patent will be challenged. Challenges can be very expensive and drawn out. If your patent will definitely survive a challenge, then you should hire a lawyer and file it.
- Could Your Money Be Better Spent? Some people choose to bring their invention directly to market instead of filing a patent. This allows them to spend money on marketing or advertising. However, this is almost never a good idea. Another person may file a patent in your stead, preventing you from using your invention. Always file a patent before taking your invention to market.
Answering these questions is important for several reasons. Doing so can help you prepare for the patenting process, as well as make the process much easier. Answering these questions can also ensure that you're hiring the right attorney and avoiding scams. Finally, doing this preparatory work will speed up the process of filing for your patent.
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