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What is the optimal way for a solo/serial inventor and a patent professional (attorney or agent) to engage one another in a business relationship so that it is a WIN/WIN experience for both?

The inventor needs to optimize their chances for financial success without going broke in the process.

The patent professional needs to be paid for their time, education, and experience.

Does it turn the professional off to have too educated a client such that the client gets in the way of an efficient path to patent. (E.g. do most pro's dislike an inventor who writes his own provisional patent application?). Or does participation by the inventor lighten the load for the attorney/agent and result in a better patent?

What is the best WIN/WIN situation for the independent inventor such that the inventor gets a valuable and quality patent in a reasonable time and without huge expenditures while at the same time the attorney or patent agent is fairly/well compensated for their time? Put another way, what is best for the inventor to do and what is best left to be done by the attorney or agent?

(The question is motivated by an abrupt and unexpected cessation of communication by an active and seemingly very competent professional on this site while I was in the process considering their services. They simply would not respond to my query about further services. To me this seems rude, at best and unethical at worst.)

With all due respect. Thank you

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2 Answers 2

An inventor wants someone to work with where the fees are reasonable and never a surprise. It is also important to find someone you can communicate well with and who has the expertise, time and will to actually understand the core of your invention. Both inventor and applicant need to view a patent is a business tool and not an end unto itself. Of corse a practitioner wants a client who can afford the services they need and can pay cheerfully. I hope it the case that a practitioner appreciates an inventor with a solid invention that they can sink their teeth into and that might make an impact. The inventor needs to be the one inventing, not thinking they are just "the big picture guy".

Some paradoxes: 1) it will go more smoothly if the inventor has finished inventing before the application writing starts. On the other hand it is important to have an open mind to alternate embodiments and to the core patentable part not being what you think it is. 2) it is very helpful if an inventor is knowledgable about patent law and procedures. On the other hand, while the practitioner should be happy to explain everything at least twice, they do not want to be continually second guessed by someone with insufficient appreciation for the depth and subtly of the field. 3) an inventor who helps with the process can be a help; an inventor who helps with the process can be a hindrance. Good help is being clear about the invention, having written starting point documents and drawings, reading and carefully reviewing documents sent by the practitioner. Unwelcome help is re-writing the application, insisting on being at the examiner interview.

The inventor should demand a practitioner who can explain complex patent system issues in a way that is understandable, even if the logic behind the law isn't. And who can explain their invention to the examiner.

Some people work on an hourly basis and some on a project basis. Either way can work as long as all the cards are on the table.

I suspect I am the guilty party in the poster's poor communication scenario. Whether I am or am not, it is a good lesson for all of us to be considerate of people we communicate with.

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Unfortunately, the patent system has evolved to the point where it is unlikely for there to be a "win/win" situation for the independent inventor/small business and a "patent professional."

Transactional costs for patent attorneys can be staggering, arising from ever-increasing insurance premiums, employment costs, on-line services fees, and the hidden cost of keeping our skills sharp in an era when patent laws are changing at a greater pace than at any time most of us can remember.

Many inventors/small businesses are looking for innovative ways to save money. Some look for alternatives, such as invention promotion companies (http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0184-invention-promotion-firms), or representing themselves, a notion to which independent inventors seem uniquely susceptible.

The simple fact is that the overwhelming majority of small ventures fail. Patent firms that are both qualified and willing to work with these small ventures are taking an enormous amount of risk; firms often subsidize this practice area with more sustainable business.

The best option left to many small ventures is to carefully vet many potential patent attorneys to determine which--if any--are a good fit. However, it may be that for a variety of reasons, there is no good balance to be stricken, and no win/win is possible. To maximize the possibility of a good working relationship, both sides would need to be able to provide effective communication, organization, professional competence, integrity, and funding. Often, if either side excels at all of these, they are part of a larger organization.

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