An invention lawyer will help you secure exclusive rights for your invention. He or she will also help you file your patent application with the United States Patent Office (USPTO).

As soon as you've filed your application, you will achieve "patent pending" status and can start sharing your idea with various companies who may want to make an investment. Hopefully, they'll want to purchase the patent application from you or maintain exclusive rights over your product or idea.

Patents are so critical that most companies won't even speak with you until you have "patent pending" status. This is where an invention lawyer comes in. He or she will help you sort out all the details throughout the application process.

Patent Attorney Versus Patent Agent

Some inventors wonder if they should seek counsel from patent attorneys or patent agents. Simply put, patent agents aren't lawyers. They cannot litigate on your behalf or perform other services that may be considered as the practice of law.

For example, a patent agent would not be able to create a contract for your patent. He or she will have passed the patent bar, however. That comprises a select portion of the law that deals only with patents and trademarks.

A patent agent will be able to help you submit your application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As far as the USPTO's concerned, patent agents are just as qualified as patent attorneys. However, they must be registered with the Patent Office.

A patent attorney will be able to see you through the process, as well. Both patent agents and patent attorneys are eligible to bring your application before the USPTO. They're both also required to possess a degree in a technical discipline, i.e., chemistry, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, or pharmacology.

What to Look for In an Invention Lawyer

Whether you're seeking the counsel of a patent attorney or a patent agent, there are two things to keep in mind:

  • His or her technical expertise
  • Your level of trust.

Regarding trust, you'll find that most patent professionals are trustworthy. However, like anything else in life, some have gone on to make an easy living by filing applications with the USPTO that would never command money from a future licensee or hold up in court.

Ask the patent professional if he or she will delegate the patent search to a paid searcher or do the work him or herself.

In addition, you'll want to insist that the patent professional provides his or her patentability opinion in writing. This will remove you from the grips of a patent professional who's just looking to make a quick buck. Not only should you request this opinion in writing, but also be sure it includes a comparison between other relatable claims that were found throughout their search.

You'll know if you feel comfortable with this person or not. You'll sense his or her integrity right away. Don't let him or her hurry you through your questions or requests.

A final note regarding trustworthiness will come through in the pay rate. Patent agents and patent attorneys who work for themselves are usually more affordable than large legal firms and may be able to devote more time to your application.

How to Find an Invention Lawyer

Now that you know what to look for, here are the steps you can take to find an invention lawyer:

  1. Go to the USPTO's website. It contains a list of patent agents and patent attorneys by state.
  2. Read through the latest issue of Inventors Digest. Patent agents and attorneys advertise their services there.
  3. Scour your local Yellow Pages. The only thing to note is that the Yellow Pages may not clearly distinguish between patent agents and attorneys.
  4. See if you have a local inventor's club in your area. This information will be listed on the United Inventors Association website.

What's the First Step in Filing an Application?

One of the first things you and your agent or attorney will do is complete an invention disclosure form. This form will ask you to outline the basic details pertaining to your invention, including what your invention can solve and how it differs from prior inventions.

If you need help finding an invention lawyer, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.