It's a fact. You don't need a lawyer to file your patent application.
”Wait… you're a patent attorney. Why would you admit this?”
I'm not a patent attorney; I’m a patent agent.
“Oh. What's the difference?"
A patent agent does everything a patent attorney does except argue in court. And since the majority of inventors never see the courtroom, it is a safe bet that you won't either.*
Like patent attorneys, patent agents are recognized by the USPTO to prosecute patent applications. “Prosecution” covers everything in a patent application’s lifecycle: preparation, filing, maintenance and representation. Everything from application to grant. Both patent attorneys and patent agents are referred to by the USPTO as “patent practitioners.”
That said, you don’t need a patent practitioner to file your patent. You can file your patent yourself. Pro se inventors are their own agents.
Our experience with pro se inventors is that they usually file their provisional patent pro se, and then hire us to help them pick up where they left off. This is because the patent-application process can be daunting.
But not impossible. To help inventors make informed decisions, the USPTO has instituted a free pilot program called Pro Se Assistance. The progam is designed to “provide assistance in helping applicants navigate www.uspto.gov and the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) to locate publically available educational resources.”
It also helps inventors proceed realistically when they opt to file pro se:
“While an applicant may prosecute the application and file papers in their application, lack of skill in this field usually acts as a liability in affording the maximum protection for the invention disclosed. Applicants are advised to secure the services of a registered patent attorney or agent to draft and prosecute a patent application, since the value of a patent is largely dependent upon skilled preparation and prosecution. USPTO employees (including Pro Se Assistance and the examiner of record) cannot give legal advice.”
An in-between option would be to follow the guidelines of the USPTO’s Pro Se Assistance and then seek the services of a patent practitioner who offers discounted fees in recognition of your efforts. For instance, an inventor who has done a careful prior-art search and a conscientious first draft of their provisional patent application will save time in discussing their invention with a patent practitioner, and if their work is done correctly, they’ll shave off a few hours of the patent practitioner’s work.
An informed inventor will be aware of some of the potentional mistakes that can get in the way of patent protection. (Having witnessed these mistakes many times, we made a youtube video to help first-time inventors with their provisional patent application.)
An informed inventor will understand the parlance of the patent office, and will be aware of the potholes pro se inventors tend to fall into during the application process. Most importantly, an informed inventor will be immune to the sundry misguided theories we’ve encountered working with independent inventors over the years.
So yes, It's a fact. You don't need a patent practitioner to file your patent application. You may choose to hire them because that’s what they do; they are professionals who are vetted by the USPTO. As an inventor you have other things to do. Like invent things.
*Should you find yourself there, however, we know some good attorneys.
© Keeley-DeAngelo. Please cite or link to us when quoting.