Any patent agent or patent attorney who has been working for any length of time has undoubtedly had a call from a small company, startup, or individual inquiring about obtaining a patent. And most, if not all, of us have had to have…the talk.
First, we explain the process for filing the application and what will happen at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which is typically followed by some jovial banter regarding how long it will take the USPTO to act on the application. Then, we start to talk about costs, and on the other end of the line is a palpable silence as the potential dollars coast across the telephone line.
Let’s face it – filing a patent application is no small feat – much has changed since Samuel Hopkins (notably a fellow Vermonter) obtained the very first U.S. patent which described a process of making potash in 1790 (right). Today’s patents are technical documents that can involve considerable costs, and, while patenting an invention yourself can be done—taking on that challenge is like taking on that home improvement project that, if done correctly, will make you look like a Bob Vila, but if done incorrectly, you’re likely to be calling Bob Vila and crew to fix the mess you’ve made.
(Unfortunately, turning to professional patent help after filing an application may significantly limit the ability to salvage the value of your idea, but that is a discussion for another time.) Importantly, there are ways to reduce costs of preparing the application. Best to start from the beginning...
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