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Obviously all agents and lawyers will vote to work with them.

How hard is it to write patent documents on your own?

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You might consider writing a patent using this analogy: writing a critical app using a new coding language that is vaguely related to the language you presently prefer, but that has a few interesting type conventions which, if you don't know about them, will lead to significant bugs.

You get one chance to compile and debug, after the code is written. The compiler may produce recoverable errors, or it may produce unrecoverable errors. The recoverable errors will cost $1000s to fix, while the unrecoverable ones will not be fixable.

How do you feel about writing a patent document on your own?

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And the syntax and semantics of the language are changed slightly every few months between when you wrote it and when it is first complied 2 years later. The rules on editing at that point do not permit "new matter". –  George White Sep 27 '13 at 18:28
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There are inventors who do a reasonable job of drafting a provisional application that has some value. If they understand the limits of the value they are getting and do not get a false sense of security from it, they will probably be better off than if they had done nothing. Although I do not recommend writing your own patent application, I do highly recommend reading Patent it Yourself by David Pressman. It is updated every year and he has a web site covering errata and changes in the law. If you study the book, do not skip the complex parts or the boring parts and feel confident you could write a regular patent application then you might be able to write a provisional application without shooting yourself in the foot.

The more abstract and complex your invention is the lower the likelihood is that you, or anyone, will get it right. But there are prolific inventors who follow courts cases, attend the annual USPTO independent inventor conferences in D.C. and faithfully read the PatentlyO blog every day. If you consistently have 10 good ideas a year and are willing to learn enough so you could almost pass the patent bar exam (you can find old ones on-line) and to play the percentages of winning and loosing, getting better at it as you go, then have at it.

I am a relative newbie, having passed the patent bar five years ago in order to get into a second career as a patent agent after being an engineer, technical manager and entrepreneur for 20+ years. I was always the person interfacing between the outside patent attorneys and the engineer/inventors and I thought I had a pretty good handle on the topic. I didn't.

The first step in becoming a registered patent practitioner is filling out a form and sending it with your college transcript to the USPTO. I got the form back with a letter: "Please fill out and submit the form again. You included your name on line 1a, thank you, but you neglected to fill in your name as it appears on your government issued ID in line 1b." Just the tip of the iceberg of nits to get right or your patent goes abandoned.

After studying for and passing the patent bar (it has a 50% pass rate), I decided to take one of my own (lame) ideas and do a patentability search and then write an application before I hung up a shingle to take on anyone else's project. Every week for three months I announced to my wife that "Last week I thought I knew what I was doing but I was wrong, now I really do know what I am doing."

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I am not a patent agent or attorney, yet I believe patent agents and attorneys' help is extremely valuable for filing patent applications because of their experience. You can do large parts of the filing yourself, yet you should better seek help for writing the application and the arguments during prosecution.

It is quite easy to obtain a patent entirely on your own. If you invented something worth patenting, and have some experience in writing say scientific papers, you can get a patent on this invention eventually. It requires quite a fair amount of work, quite a long time, but it's doable. However, the patent you will get might be worth nothing at all from an IP point of view. It might even be counter-productive as it will publicly disclose your invention.

The description is filed initially, and mostly cannot be changed. It sets the priority date. If you realize you missed something in your description, you might need to file a new patent application and added matter will get a new priority date. Since patent prosecution is long, you will typically realize this during examination, several years later, and your invention will not be so fresh and will therefore be less patentable.

Patent agents and attorneys will help you get the description right initially. They can ask you to write a description of your invention and will transform it to make it a great patent application. For example, they know about subtle elements that must be present the description, especially in the difficult field of software patents. They know this because they are aware of appeals decisions and they acquired experience from past cases with other clients. You could read about appeals and other decisions, learn from blogs (and pass the exam to become an agent yourself), yet there are things you will only learn from experience of prosecution. Besides, if you plan to seek patents internationally, you will need help from agents or attorneys who are aware of usage abroad.

Patent agents and attorneys will also help for writing claims. Part of this help comes from not being the inventor and understanding the value of the patent application. Part of this help also comes from their experience of prosecution. Also, they know the usage for writing claims, but you can figure this out yourself.

Patent agents and attorneys also know how to argue with examiners. This is less critical than getting the description right initially, yet it is both a time-saver and a way to get a patent as broad as possible. Examination is often tough and office actions are not always easy to understand. Besides, not being the inventor helps them react rationally. They also know the usage for writing amendments, but you can figure this out yourself.

Patent agents and attorneys know how to file forms and design figures that respect the requirements. This is the less critical aspect and will only save time. If you do it wrong, the office will usually give you a chance to fix the forms or the figures.

Eventually, patent agents and attorneys know about the timing. They typically use software or some tool to perform all operations in time. Most offices will tell you about acceptable delays for procedure, and in many cases you can do things late with a financial penalty. Yet failing to respect timing can invalidate your application.

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Very insightful answer. –  George White Sep 26 '13 at 17:49
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