Be Careful of the Attorney You Pick

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So how do you pick a patent attorney?  Over the past 20 years, I’ve dealt with a significant number of attorneys.  I’m even married to one.  He’s taught me a great deal about working with them and how to filter out the good ones.

First of all, you need a registered patent attorney.  Attorneys specialize just like doctors and the USPTO is pretty specific about the work being handled by a registered patent attorney, so that’s a must.

Something to keep in mind as you choose one, attorneys are service providers.  They are NOT partners, or friends, or investors. You are billable time to them and they work for you.  You are their client.  Their job is to offer suggestions but ultimately you make all the final decisions.  No matter how much they may want to be in charge or run the show, don’t let the power shift.  You are in charge because you are paying the bill.  Experience has taught me that many attorneys want to feel like the get to call the shots.  Not true and don’t waste your time with egos like that.  Don’t let them refer to themselves as your partner and absolutely do not allow them to invest in your idea for a portion of ownership.

The biggest variable in cost of attorney will be the hourly rate.  I’ve seen attorneys range from $190/hr to $650/hour and even higher.  High cost does not guarantee a better attorney.  While the hourly rate can vary widely, the time is takes to complete a basic patent application is relatively consistent.  Obviously there are some exceptions if a patent is very complex with things like software, biomedical equipment, etc.  However, for the most part, timing is about the same.

When you are selecting your attorney, an in person meet and greet is not necessary.  Attorneys will charge you for that meeting.  Even if you only spend a few minutes of the hour talking about business, you’re on the clock for the entire thing.

When I am working as a licensing agent with an inventor, they often elect to use their own attorney.  That’s fine.  My contract is a legal document and having it legally reviewed is always ok.  But when the attorney starts trying to make a ton of changes, I urge you to use caution.  They will charge you for the time it takes to change every letter they change and insist it’s for your benefit.  Remember to keep the power hierarchy in your mind, you’re at the top.

I work with inventors, not attorneys.  I’m on your side.  Don’t let the attorney run your show.  Let me throw this out there as an example.  Say your hire an engineer to work with you on designing a prototype.  You wouldn’t let the engineer make the final decisions.  You want their input, an educated opinion on how things work and pros or cons to a design.  But you are making the final determination on how to proceed and you only pay them for the time they spent working on your project.  The attorneys input should be along the same mindset.  They give suggestions, you make decisions.  Period.  Don’t let them offer to invest or work as a partner.  Begin your Patent search Here

If you get to the point that you are ready to work with a licensing group in negotiations for a licensing deal, don’t bring your attorney.  If you bring yours, they will bring theirs.  And you will end up paying your attorney for their time whether a deal is made or not.  Attorneys should be kept behind the scenes, reviewing documents.  I can guarantee you that any licensor you work with will have an attorney working for them prior to meeting with you.  But they almost never come to meetings. Meetings with attorneys end up being ego driven and deals are rarely struck.

As a licensing agent, it’s expected that I will be in the room with you.  And having done this for so many years, I can help you navigate a lot of the “between the lines” negotiations.  But because I’m not an attorney, there’s no incentive for them to bring one to the talk.  Keep in mind that I also don’t charge by the hour so you’re not going to be on the hook to pay me if the negotiations tank.  

I’ve worked with some great attorneys over the years.  People who keep their egos in check and have no problem stating that their client is in charge.  Those are the attorneys you want.   They know how to make quality suggestions and empower you to make quality decisions.   Download the inventors-galaxy-guide

Beware the ones who ask for a monthly charge or retainer.  They want you to pay them to be available whenever but you don’t need that.  You just need someone to work as needed and want to pay as you go.  You also want to make sure before you deal with one that you’ve asked for their hourly rates, and an estimate for the time the work will take.  It helps keep them honest.  You don’t want random invoices showing up.  If they don’t want to commit to an estimate, take that as a sign and find another one.  If you are having problems finding one or don’t know who to trust, reach out to me.  I have access to multiple registered patent attorneys and will make sure you don’t get a lemon.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out to me directly or to attend one of our virtual meetings!  All the information for reaching me and our upcoming meetings can be found on my website:

Begin your Patent search Here

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