When To Employ A Patent Attorney
Before we jump right into the topic of whether to retain or sidestep the use of a patent attorney, let's talk about patents at a basic level.
Having your invention or developed ideas protected by a patent gives you as the patent owner definitive legal rights to make and sell your invention. But you can't simply patent any idea; ideas need to be documented, researched and developed before you get to the patent stage.
A patent agent or a patent lawyer can inform you of patent invention rights and laws that exist. In essence, invention ideas that are not protected by a patent may be used liberally by anyone, so if you do have an invention idea it's advisable to keep it reasonably under wraps until you progress on it.
Patent Lawyers vs. Patent Agents: What's The Difference?
The fundamental difference between a patent attorney and a patent agent is the education behind their title:
As an inventor, this means that you have options when it comes to representation in patent application matters. You can use a patent attorney, a patent agent, or neither. If you end up opting for an agent or attorney, you'll want to be sure that they are fluent in understanding the technical jargon that surrounds your invention and its niche.
When Do Patent Lawyers And Patent Agents Come Into Play?
There may be complex legal issues connected to invention ideas throughout the process of submitting them to big companies such as joint development of the same invention or infringement breaches.
That’s why we highly recommend using a trusted service such as ours to get the process started. Starting with experts in the field helps you untangle the ball of yarn that might seem to have you tied up and confused later. We’re here to ease your confusion and simplify the patent process.
One example of this debacle could be two inventors that developed an invention together, including trade secret ownership and confidential rights.
Going into business with a friend can be a superb idea, but much like a marriage, there are times when certain rights and legal issues need to be discussed and invoked first. A patent agent or attorney can help you with those issues before applying for an invention patent.
Your patent agent or lawyer may advise or recommend that you obtain a patent before submitting your ideas to a big company.
However, some companies may allow you to disclose and discuss your idea after an invention patent application has been filed - patent pending.
Keep in mind that the companies that you submit your ideas to before an invention patent has been issued could be under no obligation to keep your idea a secret. This is something a lot of companies won’t tell you upfront, and another reason why working with a trusted organization to get your patent is vital if you ever want to reap the monetary value of your invention idea!
They may also be under no obligation to neither pay anything nor refrain from using your idea while the invention idea is being evaluated unless a written agreement has been completed.
A patent agent or attorney can help you out with confidentiality agreements.
Following your invention idea's evaluation, the company may be under no obligation to keep your invention idea a secret or may not refrain from using your invention ideas unless an agreement in writing is completed.
The benefit of having an issued invention patent is that it entitles you to rights as defined by the invention patent claims. Depending on the company that you are submitting your ideas to, a patent agent may urge you to acquire an issued invention patent before submitting your inventions to a company for evaluation.
Are There Alternatives To Getting A Patent Lawyer?
There are several companies that will review your invention ideas before an invention patent application is in progress or before an invention patent has been issued.
For example, the company Plaid will accept invention ideas before an invention patent has been issued, and they would agree to keep your invention idea submission confidential and will not use or disclose the invention idea to any third parties or employees of Plaid, other than those Plaid employees who participate in the review of the idea submission, unless such disclosure is required by law or unless Plaid acquires knowledge of the submissions prior to your disclosure thereof.
Sears is an exception, and may accept invention ideas prior to an invention patent have been issued or an invention patent application is in process.
However, by considering a submitted idea, Sears may not obligate itself to pay any compensation whatsoever for its use of un-patentable ideas. Also, Sears may make no commitment that you’re submitted invention ideas shall be kept a secret or confidential. It may be necessary for a large company like Sears to refer your invention idea submission to a number of persons at Sears or at third parties, such as vendors and manufacturers, who have business dealings with Sears.
Consider this when submitting your invention to large companies, because this may be necessary to thoroughly evaluate your invention idea submission.
You may want to consider including a period of limiting time for the company that you are submitting you invention idea to evaluate your invention idea. An appropriate amount of time may be 45 to 60 days to evaluate an invention submission.
So as you see, regardless of where you want to sell your idea and how you want to go about the process, there is one very important first step. If you want to make money from your idea and your invention – if you want to get it licensed and into production – you should be talking with us first. We’ll match you with the best next step based on where you are in the process and what category your invention idea is in.
When you are ready to sell your idea (after you get the patent), always be sure to establish contact with the company that you are submitting your idea to before sending any material or detailed descriptions of your invention idea.
Confirm if the company accepts outside idea submission and what the company's submission rules and guidelines are. Remember, until a contract is signed and completed, your only legal rights in and to the submissions remain with you.
Happy inventing, and happier selling folks!