The Scoop on Patent Agents
Patent agents provide an alternative to hiring more expensive patent attorneys. A patent agent writes patents and deals with the patent office. While anyone (including you, although I don't advise it) can write a patent, the patent writer must understand the format requirements and the implications of using specific language and terms to present an invention adequately so that it's fully and non-restrictively described.
That's why a patent agent with the experience and know-how can be helpful. This service is sometimes substantially cheaper than using a patent attorney. Like attorneys, patent agents' level of expertise and knowledge varies by individual. Carefully evaluate an agent's background before hiring him or her, as you can find extremely talented people if you're careful.
The possible downside to using a patent agent rather than an attorney is that a patent agent isn't able to defend or enforce a patent in court, should the need arise. In addition, a patent agent may have less training than an attorney and may write patents perceived by some as not being as well drafted as an attorney's. Be sure to understand any patent agent's (or attorney's) specific experience and background.
What About Patent Search Firms?
If you're considering filing a patent, a patent search can help you avoid infringing on another person's patent, as well as determine whether the protection gained from your own patent justifies the effort. While this is a step that's built into the traditional patent-filing process, take this step independently if you decide to opt out of filing a patent.
You can purchase a basic search performed by experts who use some of the same databases as the examiners at USPTO for approximately $250 to $800. Keep in mind that any preliminary search won't be as complete as the one done by USPTO because of the 18-month period of secrecy for filings. To find a reputable company, visit the United Inventors Association . Look in the "Resources" section for a list of companies that can help conduct patent searches.
An alternative to the traditional full-blown patent, such as a provisional patent, trademark or copyright, may make more sense for your particular product. Your attorney can advise you on which route is the most beneficial.
Tamara Monosoff is the author of Your Million Dollar Dream: Regain Control & Be Your Own Boss and The Mom Inventors Handbook, Secrets of Millionaire Moms, and co-author of The One Page Business Plan for Women in Business. She is also the and CEO of www.MomInvented.com. Connect on Twitter: @mominventors and on Facebook: facebook.com/MomInvented.