For some new businesses, protecting intellectual property is key to success. However, attorneys specializing in intellectual property law can be insanely expensive and many new entrepreneurs feel that, since they can’t afford the legal bills, they can’t move forward with their business.
Now, as I always remind you when I talk about legal or tax stuff here at New Venture Mentor, I’m not a lawyer and I can’t give you professional legal advice. However, I don’t want to see any aspiring entrepreneurs with great ideas stuck in a rut because they were quoted a five-figure minimum fee by a patent lawyer and think their dreams are dead before they’ve even started. That’s why this week we’ll talk a little bit about how you can save some money when you go through the process of protecting your intellectual property.
A lot of this info comes from an article by Doug Wolf over at Entrepreneur.com.
Now, patent law is one of the more complex areas of law in the US and that’s why lawyers that specialize in this type of law can charge big bucks and entrepreneurs trying to go it alone can often get themselves in trouble. A very common way to go is to file a provisional patent on your own – sort of as a placeholder – and then use a lawyer to file the non-provisional patent. A non-provisional patent application must be filed within 1 year of the filing date of the provisional patent, but this method can give you a few extra months to pull together the necessary cash you need to hire a lawyer that will make sure you get the IP protection that is vital to the success of your business.
If you decide to go with the DIY approach, some of the most common blunders non-experts make include:
Not giving enough information in the provisional patent so that it’s filing date can be used to benefit the non-provisional patent
Not understanding what rights the provisional patent actually provides and getting in trouble by publicly disclosing too much
Including too much irrelevant information
Misclassifying or mischaracterizing previous inventions upon which your new one is built
Attempting to include multiple inventions in one application
Once it’s time for you to bring in the professionals, make sure that you shop around to find someone that offers what you need at a price that is fair and affordable. While it’s important to get a lawyer who is experienced and really knows his or her stuff, you shouldn’t just go to the most expensive game in town. Some lawyers actually specialize in working with startups and may have some flexible payment arrangements available that can help you.
Additionally, the vast majority of lawyers still charge by the hour so you’ll want to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row before beginning the relationship. Draw up a clearly organized document that fully details the invention and includes any diagrams or charts that should be included in the patent application. Make sure it’s thorough and complete and do your best not to make any changes once the lawyer gets started. Every change means more work for the lawyer and a bigger bill for you so, the more organized you are from the outset, the lower your overall costs should be.
While proper IP protection can be expensive to get, if that intellectual property is key to the success of your business, you should give it the time, respect, and monetary weight that it deserves and make sure that you get the proper protection. It may seem exorbitant up front but if you later end up needing to protect your rights to that IP, you will be glad that you had a professional dotting all of the Is and crossing all of the Ts.
Now I’d like to hear from you. What’s been your experience with intellectual property lawyers and patent applications? Please share any tips, horror stories, or other experiences in the comments section below.
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