Some key terms used in this article:
An inventor is free to prepare his or her own patent application (or provisional patent application) and thousands of inventors have done so using self-help guides such as Nolo’s Patent It Yourself, Patent Pending in 24 Hours or Nolo’s Online Provisional Patent Application process. Filing an application without an attorney also saves a great deal of money (often $5,000 to $10,000).
Despite the savings, when it comes to filing a patent application, most inventors prefer to use the services of a certified patent specialist with a scientific or technical background. The primary reason that inventors use attorneys to prepare and prosecute their documentation is over concernt about properly protecting invention rights -- the prosecution process is complex, requires considerable research, and the patent application must be written in an arcane style and format. Among the tasks required are:
In order to represent an inventor, an attorney or agent must be able to converse with the inventor in the technical language of the invention. For this reason, the USPTO has established a certification process for patent attorneys and patent agents. Patent agents cannot represent parties in litigation or perform any activity amounting to the practice of law. For example, Sienna is a patent agent who represents Derrick. She can prepare and file his patent application. She can respond to letters from the examiners at the Patent and Trademark Office and participate in a revision of the application. But she cannot advise Derrick as to the legal consequences of his ownership of the invention (e.g., in a divorce or for purposes of making a will).
It’s possible to file your own provisional patent application (PPA) and your own regular patent application. Of the two, the PPA is far easier to file by yourself. However, despite its informality, the PPA must still properly describe how to make and use your invention.
Filing a provisional patent application is far easier than filing a regular patent application. It’s usually less than 10 pages and written in an informal style. Academic or technical journal articles are often sufficient provided the document describes how to make and use the invention. The drawings that accompany a PPA may also be informal, although you can hire a patent drafts person, usually at a rate of $50-$100 per drawing.
Despite the costs, utilizing a Patent attorney can provide security and protection, and often the cost is outweighed by the counsel and advice provided by a professional.