It’s common for inventors to experience uncertainty and frustration during the patenting process. The good news is that a strong working relationship with a patent attorney can go a long way toward reducing angst and headaches.
A strong attorney/client relationship does not happen by accident. It’s the result of the mutual efforts of the patent attorney and client.
A good attorney can take steps to keep the relationship on the right track, but he or she cannot do it without a client’s help. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
You are paying for your attorney’s time and expertise. Generally, the less time an attorney needs to spend to prepare and prosecute your application, the less he or she will charge you. The more work you do, the less you’ll have to pay your attorney to do.
Keep in mind that when you first speak to an attorney, he or she will probably know little about your case. A model, a written description and/or a drawing of your invention will help your attorney to quickly understand it.
Also, your attorney likely will need to know some basic background information such as:
. How others have tried to solve this problem.
. What makes your solution novel.
. How you came to conceive your invention.
. Any public disclosure, sale or offer to sell the invention.
Collecting this information in advance saves time and money.
Some understanding of the process will improve the relationship by making you a better consumer.
Attorneys prefer educated clients because they can better appreciate the value of the services they receive and can make informed decisions.
Also, educating yourself about the process reduces the time your attorney will need to spend to educate you. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides an overview of the process along with answers to frequently asked questions at http://www.uspto.gov/main/patents.htm
Understand Attorney Fees
A good time to do this is during an initial consultation. Your attorney will be ready to discuss fees at this first meeting, and you should be ready to do the same. Clarify whether you will be charged by the hour (time-based billing) or by the task (fixed-fee billing), how often you will receive a bill and payment terms.
Once an attorney agrees to represent you, he or she will provide you with some form of contract. Read and understand it before you sign so that you feel comfortable about the services that you are purchasing. Keep a copy of the contract for your records.
Keep Communication Open
Good communication is the foundation of any good working relationship. Up front, confirm how and when you want to be contacted. Then keep your contact information up-to-date. Promptly respond to your attorney’s requests for information. The more quickly you respond, the more time you give your attorney to digest the information, which, in turn, enables he or she to more effectively use it.
Every applicant has a duty of candor and good faith in dealing with the USPTO to disclose all information “material to patentability.” Failure to comply with this duty may result in the rejection of your patent. Disclosing all material information potentially permits your attorney to determine how best to satisfy this duty.
Nurturing a strong working relationship with your patent attorney can go a long way to reducing the uncertainty many inventors feel during the patenting process. Securing a patent may not always be easy, but forging a good relationship with your attorney is always worth the effort.