The process for registering a patent with the United States Patent & Trademarks Office (USPTO) is complex and costly and therefore it makes sense to hire a professional patent attorney to support you in making your application. The process of becoming a patent attorney is very lengthy and involved.
To give you an idea every US Patent Attorney must possess an appropriate undergraduate degree THEN pass the incredibly difficult U.S. Patent Bar examinations and THEN graduate from law school before finally pass their state’s bar exam.
However, even with all of this education and all of these examinations under their belt there huge variety of potential patents that could be filed means that no single patent attorney can handle every application. You will find in larger firms that they will have patent attorneys that specialize in specific areas and it is worth considering a specialist attorney for very niche ideas as discussed on http://blogs.bu.edu/suechen/inventhelp-taking-inventions-from-paper-to-the-global-marketplace/.
So what can you look for in a patent attorney?
Here are some pointers:
Are they qualified? – This is very easily solved by searching the USPTO Attorney / Agent Search online. At time of writing there are over ten thousand active agents and thirty two thousand active attorneys.
Attorney or Agent? – There is a world of difference between a patent attorney and a patent agent. An attorney is technically and legally qualified whereas an agent does not need to be legally qualified but can support the completion of applications from a technical standpoint. Ensure that you are employing an attorney not an agent if this is what you require.
Are they able to handle your particular application? – It is worth inquiring if they have previously (and ideally successfully) secured patents for similar types of applications to yours. This need not be a deal breaker but you want to feel confident that they have the skills, knowledge and understanding required to complete your application successfully.
Don’t necessarily go with the biggest or the one that advertises the most – You are looking for the most appropriate attorney to handle your application. Bigger firms do sometimes have the advantage of having specialist divisions but smaller, more specialized firms may be more effective for you. There are no definitive rules about this. Just simply be aware of choosing the most appropriate firm for you.
Gather the evidence – Shortlist a number of patent attorneys to investigate further. Look for independent reviews of their services, ask others for recommendations if you are able to do so and if you have any doubts then ask the questions. Ask them for sample applications, terms of business, their fee schedule and any other information you may require.
Who is the expert? – Remember that you are the expert in your idea. The attorney is the expert in navigating the legalities and processes required to secure your desired patent. The attorney can only work with the information that s/he is provided with and therefore you have a responsibility to ensure that you communicate your idea clearly. A good patent attorney will help you to structure your idea and put it into your application in a way that supports the patent process.
Take your time – Do not feel rushed or pressured into choosing a particular patent attorney. After all you are going to potentially be spending a lot of money with them and on your patent application. Therefore, it is essential that you ensure that you are happy to proceed both with your application and the particular attorney.
You are not alone if you start investigating a patent attorney and find out that you are not ready to begin the process. If this is the case, be honest with the attorney, take some time to get yourself prepared and then you can approach them when you are ready to begin.