At some point, you may need the advice and counsel of an
experienced patent attorney (See Do You Need a Patent Attorney?). Your first step is to find one in your area who
can help you.
- Browse Nolo's Lawyer Directory to find local patent attorneys. You'll find detailed profiles, philosphy, fee information, and more.
- All patent attorneys are listed in the PTO publication, Attorneys
and Agents Registered to Practice Before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
(A&ARTP ). It is available in many public libraries and Patent and
Trademark Depository Libraries, government bookstores, and on the PTO ’s
website (www. uspto.gov).
- The American Intellectual Property Law Association
(AIPLA ) may be able to assist you in locating patent attorneys in your area. Contact
the AIPLA at http://www.aipla. org or at 2001 Jefferson Davis Highway, Suite
203, Arlington, VA 22202, phone: 703-415-0780.
- The Intellectual Property Law Association
of the American Bar Association also has a listing of intellectual property attorneys.
Contact them at www.abanet.org or at 312-988-5000. Most attorneys bill on an
hourly basis ($150 to $600 an hour) and send a bill at the end of each month.
Some attorneys bill on a fixed fee basis. For example, $1,000 for a patent
validity opinion, $1,000 for a patentability search, and $5,000 for a simple patent
application. Note that in many states, such as California, a client always has the
right to terminate the attorney, although this does not terminate the
obligation to pay the attorney. If you don’t respect and trust your attorney’s
professional abilities, you should switch and find a new attorney. Under most
state bar rules, your attorney is required to deliver all of your papers to you
at your request and without charge upon termination. However, you should not
make this decision hastily. Switching attorneys is a nuisance and you may lose
time and money.
Disclosing Patents and Trade Secrets to an Attorney
When you retain the services of an attorney, a privileged relationship
is created. The attorney cannot divulge information given in confidence. The attorney
can only disclose information you’ve shared with your consent or under special
circumstances, such as a court order.
This confidential relationship (attorney/client
privilege) also applies to employees and agents of an attorney. However, you should
observe the following guidelines regarding attorney/client relationships:
- Disclosures to an attorney are only protected when made in confidence. For
example, public disclosures (in a diner or a ballpark) that could be overheard
might not be protected.
- The attorney/client privilege only applies to your
attorney—the attorney you have retained. A casual discussion with an attorney (sometimes
known as “street corner advice”) will generally not set the privilege in motion
(although in some states it may).