There is always a level of excitement when speaking with a registered patent attorney to address how best to patent an idea. By the time of scheduling a patent consultation with a patent law firm, an inventor often has spent a considerable amount of time, effort, money and resources. Often, an inventor has already conducted some form of patent research to determine whether or not their idea has already been the subject of a U.S. Patent (or a currently published patent application). On occasion, the inventor has already performed some of on-line patent search.
Based upon these factors, as well as the underlying nature of such meetings, there is often a general misunderstanding as to what an inventor should bring to an initial patent consultation. The following are a list of the five things not to bring when attending an initial meeting with your patent lawyer:
1. Your resume and references: Many inventors want to convince a registered patent attorney that they are smart, intelligent, and industrious. Moreover, it often seems that many inventors what to “pitch” their idea instead of “teaching” the patent idea to the registered patent attorney for purposes of exploring how best to protect an idea. Because of this, many inventors will bring a resume, references or other information about themselves to a patent attorney. This is all largely unnecessary. The purpose of an initial patent consultation is to explore whether the registered patent attorney that you are interviewing is a right fit for your goals, your budget, and the subject matter relating to your invention.
Even when inventors don’t bring a resume, an inventor may elect to spend the initial portion of a consultation on telling the patent attorney who they know, how rich that they could become, or how successful that they will be. Again, the time dedicated in an initial patent consultation is limited. Moreover, a patent attorney’s focus is not on how much money the invention may be worth, but how to best protect the invention. In short, the time spent in an initial consultation should be based upon teaching the invention, how it is unique, how it solves a problem, and how it works. Focusing on those topics best helps the inventor determine whether patent protection is right for an idea.
2. A business plan: Inventors also often focus more in an initial patent consultation on presenting a business plan on how they will sell an idea, and how they will make money off an invention, rather than how to best patent an invention. Often this includes financial data, sales projections, and suggested methods to monetize the invention.
While such intentions may be well founded, they do not assist the patent attorney in their role to understand the inventor or to learn how to best protect the idea. Again, business plans are more important for well after a patent application has been filed. Moreover, the role of a patent attorney is to give legal advice not business counsel.
3. A presentation or slideshow: Similar to a business plan or resume, inventors often believe that they need to create some form of presentation showing the size of the market, the amount of competition, or the amount of money to be had. Again, just as with the business plan, is often a large waste of time and resources for purposes of an initial patent planning meeting.
If an inventor desires to memorialize his or her invention in a presentation (like a PowerPoint slide show), that document should focus on how the technology functions, its working elements, how it solves the problem, and how it is unique. Those are the very types of documents worthwhile for a registered patent attorney to help frame an initial meeting, such that the lawyer can then ask questions about how best to protect the invention.
4. A prototype, software, or proof of concept: Another common misconception is that prior to preparation and filing of a patent application that there is a requirement that the inventor either create a prototype or program the underlying software to show a proof of concept of a patent idea. Often, this misinformation will lead an inventor to delay meeting with a registered patent attorney, based upon the belief that unless there is an actual proof of concept, then there is no ability to file for a patent. This too is often at the demise of the inventor – as it is better to meet early on with a patent lawyer to explore how to quickly and early on obtain a priority date of invention.
The touchtone to whether to meet with a registered patent attorney is whether the inventor has formed a belief in their mind of a new, non-obvious and inventive design or process. The actual reduction of that idea into a tangible form, while necessary, need not be in the form of a working model.
5. Gifts: Often an inventor wants to befriend a registered patent attorney by providing some gift at an initial meeting. Again, this is unnecessary. Most registered patent attorneys are paid based upon either a budgeted hourly rate for a patent project or on a flat or capped fee system. Moreover, the registered patent attorney’s role is not to be a partner with the inventor, but instead as an advisor and counselor.