Starting the Patent Process on a Limited Budget
|Written by Gene Quinn
Patent Attorney & Founder of IPWatchdog
Zies, Widerman & Malek
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Posted: Dec 3, 2008 @ 6:30 am
I have a few ideas that I think could really be a success. I started researching “how to patent an idea” but have been bombarded with information. I have no clue where to start, and I have only a limited budget. What should be my first step?
Your question is one I get a lot. The patent process can be complex and knowing where to begin and how to responsibly pursue your inventions in a cost-responsible manner is not always easy, particularly for first time inventors.
The first thing I would like to point out is that you need to be careful in how you ask questions of patent attorneys and those you are seeking help from. I know from your question (which I edited down to its essence) that you are a serious inventor. For better or for worse, when a patent attorney or patent agent hears the terms “limited budget” they routinely shy away and might not even respond. All of us get bombarded every day with e-mails and phone calls from inventors who have a great idea or invention but who have no money. The reality is that inventing and patenting does take financial resources and there is no patent attorney or patent agent who can help you if you have no funds. Limited funding also scares away many, but there are responsible ways to move forward even with limited funding.
I have worked with independent inventors and small businesses for years and I specialize in helping those with limited budgets make the most out of the money they have to work with. The key is to develop a strategy that makes sense within your resources and one that doesn’t invest unnecessarily or recklessly. This conserves resources in a responsible way, while still laying the ground work for obtaining the benefits and protections offered by the patent laws. The nightmare scenario you need to avoid is spending to much on any one invention that winds up going nowhere. If this happens you not only lose what you invested, but you also potentially lose valuable funds that could be used to pursue the next great idea you have. Over the years as I have worked with inventors and musicians what I have learned is that creative people are rarely, if ever, only going to create once.
Remember, Thomas Edison was not always successful in his first attempts and he famously said that failed experiments were not failures because he learned what did not work. While it is unrealistic to think any of us are the next Thomas Edison, we should definitely learn from him and responsibly invent where there is a market need and understand that failure is inevitable at times. You just need to treat failure as a hurdle rather than a road block.
I have written a number of articles to explain how to start the process in a responsible way. Take a look at:
Any time you start the invention and patenting process on a limited budget there is something of a chicken and an egg problem. Do you start with a patent search to see whether it makes sense to move forward, or do you start with a provisional patent application first? Notice that I have already ruled out a nonprovisional patent application as the starting point. The cost of a nonprovisional patent application can be quite high and unnecessary to start the process. You can file a provisional patent application, use the coveted terms “patent pending” and then within 12 months file a nonprovisional patent application if it appears as if the invention will be worthwhile.
A lot of inventors will do their own patent search first, if it is OK then file a provisional patent application. Then on the road to filing a nonprovisional patent application they have a professional patent search done and reviewed by a patent attorney or patent agent. A search is always better to start, but resource limitations are what they are and sometimes strategies need to be developed to move forward under less than ideal circumstances. If you want to do your own patent search first, which is a good idea, definitely read Patent Searching 101, which explains how to do a good search. Please do realize, however, that at some point you really will need a professional search. Professional searches will find far more than an inventor can find because searchers do this for a living 40 hours a week for years. They are extremely good at finding whatever is available to be found. So start on your own, but be careful not to invest a lot of money simply because you didn’t find anything. If you cannot find anything similar to your invention based on your own search please read No Prior Art for My Invention.
I have also created a do-it-yourself provisional patent application system called the Invent & Patent System that you might be interested in using. This unique system, on which I have a patent application pending myself, allows you to create a provisional patent application for filing with the United States Patent Office. What you can do yourself is obviously not going to be as good as what a patent attorney could do, but the system does create good applications if you actually follow through and use the examples and templates to guide you. The cost to use the system is $189, and then the price you would have to pay to the US Patent Office for filing would be $110. This is how I have taught law students to draft applications over the years and it has proven to be quite successful.
If you do have sufficient funds and are interested in a patent attorney drafting a provisional patent application we can usually do that for between $1,500 and $2,500, plus any fees, which are typically limited to the $110 US Patent Office filing fee. If we draft that provisional patent application for you and then you ultimately decide to proceed forward with a nonprovisional patent application we would start where we left off with the provisional patent application, so there would not be duplicative efforts. This allows us to credit what we have already done toward the nonprovisional patent application. A representative quote for a nonprovisional patent application is typically $8,000 plus fees for a nonprovisional patent application, and you have already paid us $1,500 to draft a provisional patent application, the remaining cost to prepare and file the nonprovisional patent application would be $6,500, plus filing and any drawing fees. Please do note, however, that it is impossible to give a firm quote without knowing a good deal about an invention. For more information on estimated costs see Cost of Obtaining a Patent.
We can also do patent searches and provide patentability reports with a patentability assessment typically for between $1,500 and $2,500, depending upon the technology involved and the depth and scope of the opinion and assistance you require. For more on our patent search services see Patent Search FAQs. If I can be of any assistance send me an e-mail and we can proceed from there.
About the Author
|Eugene R. Quinn, Jr.
President & Founder of IPWatchdog, Inc.
US Patent Attorney (Reg. No. 44,294)
Zies, Widerman & Malek
B.S. in Electrical Engineering, Rutgers University
J.D., Franklin Pierce Law Center
L.L.M. in Intellectual Property, Franklin Pierce Law Center
Send me an e-mail
Gene Quinn is a US Patent Attorney, law professor and the founder of IPWatchdog.com. He is also a principal lecturer in the top patent bar review course in the nation, which helps aspiring patent attorneys and patent agents prepare themselves to pass the patent bar exam. Known by many as “The IPWatchdog,” Gene started the widely popular intellectual property website IPWatchdog.com in 1999, and since that time the site has had millions of unique visitors. Gene has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the LA Times, CNN Money, NPR and various other newspapers and magazines worldwide. He represents individuals, small businesses and start-up corporations. As an electrical engineer with a computer engineering focus his specialty is electronic and computer devices, Internet applications, software and business methods.