If you’re uncomfortable or uneasy filing protection for your ideas without assistance, hire a patent agent or patent attorney. However, all patent attorneys are not created equal – it’s important to invest time and energy into finding a firm or independent that you can effectively work with.
I like to relate finding a lawyer to finding a doctor. You’d rely on recommendations from friends and family, right? The best relationships are likely to be formed through referrals. If you know other inventors, ask them whom they are working with, or have worked with, and what area of expertise they special in. Most lawyers have specific fields and industries they are familiar with, or prefer to work in. The firm I’ve worked with for the past decade, Carr and Ferrell, are located in Silicon Valley. They specialize in High Tech Intellectual Property. Although my product, Spinformation, was pretty low-tech, I knew they had the resources and knowledge to advise and defend the product. Carr and Ferrell were recommended to me by Worlds of Wonder, a company I worked for briefly; the lead attorney at WOW knew John, my lawyer, personally.
If you don’t know any inventors you can gain recommendations from, there are, of course, other courses of action. The Internet is always at your disposal, as well as magazines such as Inventor’s Digest; advertisements for legal counsel are likely to be placed within the back pages. Additionally, you can use filed patents as resources. Use the USPTO to identify patents that use similar technology to your product or are in similar fields and find the lawyer that authored that patent. This is a great way to find an attorney, but make sure that the patents aren’t dated and too old for the information to be of use.
Patent agents are a great alternative option to working with a lawyer. Although they cannot litigate cases, they can file patents and obviously have extensive knowledge and expertise in doing so. Most patent agents work independently and should be less expensive than an attorney.
Remember that it’s unnecessary for your lawyer to live physically close to you. In the past twelve years, I’ve met with Carr and Ferrell face to face no more than a dozen times. Communication through email and telephone will suffice.