By: William S. Ramsey, Esq.
A client proudly confides: “I have an invention.” What do you need to know to best protect his or her rights?
- It’s a federal patent or nothing. There is no common law patent. A trade secret works only if you can keep the invention secret, which is not an option for most inventions.
- Keep it secret until filing. An application must be filed within one year of public disclosure in order to obtain patent protection and there are advantages in avoiding public disclosure entirely before filing.
- A separately licensed attorney or agent is necessary. Only a scientist or engineer who has passed a test on patent law can represent clients before the Patent and Trademark Office (e.g. a Registered Patent Attorney if also a lawyer; otherwise a Patent Agent).
- It’s not cheap. Figure $1,200 in government fees, perhaps $4,000-8,000 for attorney or agent fees. Each patent application is unique and takes a lot of time to write and prosecute. Obtaining a patent is worth it only if it supports a potentially valuable product or service.
- Avoid invention promoters. As a rule, invention promotion services at best provide services which no one needs. Have your client join an inventor’s club and visit the Patent and Trademark Office website www.uspto.gov.