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Not sure how to choose the right patent attorney? Here's where to look and what to look for.

By Tomima Edmark

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

One of the hardest tasks you'll face as a first-time inventor is finding the right attorney to file your patent. I know, because I unsuccessfully hired several attorneys before finally finding one that was right for me. The reason it's so tough is that attorneys who practice patent law are highly specialized and hard to find. To add to the confusion, many attorneys claim to have knowledge of patent law but lack actual experience. If you don't know what to look for in a patent attorney, you could be playing Russian roulette with your idea.

You should first understand what's required to be a true patent attorney. A patent attorney must not only have a law degree, but also an undergraduate degree in a technical field, such as computer science or engineering, that has been approved by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). A licensed patent attorney must also pass a rigorous test administered by the PTO. Once the attorney has passed the test, he or she is given a PTO registration number and is licensed to practice before the PTO in patent cases. Individuals without law degrees, but with an undergraduate degree in one of the approved PTO technical fields, may take the test. Once they pass the test, they're known as patent agents and may also submit patent applications to the PTO. However, a patent agent is not allowed to engage in litigation or render any kind of legal advice.

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