In general terms, patents are granted to inventors who create a new and novel item, idea, design, or process. A patent gives the inventor certain rights to their invention and the profits it generates while legally protecting them from imitators who might try to pass the idea off as their own. To receive a patent, an inventor must provide the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with detailed technical information about their invention and get their application approved. Most U.S. patents last 15 to 20 years, as long as the inventor continues to pay the maintenance fees. Patent lawyers assist inventors with gaining and protecting these highly important and lucrative patent rights.
What Skills Does a Patent Lawyer Possess?
Patent law is a highly specialized area within the broader field of intellectual property law and therefore requires a unique set of skills. Most successful patent lawyers have a background in science or technology, which allows them to understand the technical aspects of their client’s patents. Patent lawyers must not only pass the state bar exam required for all lawyers but also take the USPTO registration examination, also known as the patent bar exam. However, passing these tests does not fully equip a lawyer to practice patent law. Many aspects of patent law can only be learned through practice. The next step in their training is typically several years of apprenticeship under an experienced patent lawyer to master the necessary skills for the job.
Once a lawyer has completed their apprenticeship, they will be well prepared to help their clients with all of their patent-related needs, including:
● Writing patent applications
● Litigating cases of patent infringement
● Advising clients on how to protect their patent rights
● Assisting with intellectual property management, such as ensuring that fees are paid promptly and necessary deadlines are met.
● Providing advice on licensing and other contract-related issues
● Investigating whether a product is eligible for a patent
● Facilitating the transfer of intellectual property rights during a merger or sale
● Potentially coordinating international patent applications and other necessary paperwork
What is the Difference Between a Patent Lawyer, a Patent Agent, and an Intellectual Property Attorney?
Patent lawyer, patent agent, and intellectual property attorney sound like titles that could describe the same individual, but there are some key differences in how they can assist their clients:
● Patent agent: A patent agent has only passed the USPTO patent bar exam. They can help clients file their patent applications and can represent them in matters dealing with the USPTO but are unable to litigate matters such as patent infringement because they do not possess the qualifications to be a lawyer.
● Intellectual property attorney: These professionals are qualified to practice law and deeply understand intellectual property rights, which can overlap with some aspects of patent law. However, they do not have specific knowledge of patents or how to apply for them.
● Patent lawyer: As noted above, they have passed both the state bar exam to practice law and the patent bar exam to become certified by the USPTO.
A patent agent can be a helpful resource for businesses or people who simply want assistance applying for a patent. However, a patent attorney is uniquely situated to be capable of both aiding with the application process and ensuring that your patent rights are upheld and protected after you receive your patent, among other skills.
How Do You Choose the Right Patent Lawyer for Your Needs?
While it is technically possible to apply for a patent on your own, the process is incredibly technical and involved. Even the USPTO recommends seeking the services of a patent agent or patent lawyer to guide you through the steps. Securing the help of a trained professional dramatically increases your odds of successfully securing your patent in a timely fashion. Additionally, a patent lawyer can assist you with many other legal issues regarding patents. But how do you choose the best lawyer for your situation?
Ideally, your patent lawyer should have knowledge about the field relating to your patent because they must be able to take your potentially complex ideas and synthesize them into clear and concise legal documents and arguments. These skills are built through years of practice, so it is critical to find an experienced patent lawyer, especially if your case involves high stakes for you or your company. Your lawyer should have a solid understanding of how your invention is different from existing technology. This assessment of the novelty of your idea is key to drafting a successful patent application and defending your patent from competitors, if necessary. Strong time management skills and attention to detail are crucial traits to look for in a patent lawyer as well because the whole process hinges on satisfying strict legal requirements, meeting deadlines, and building a valuable patent through the proper use of meaningful technical language within the application.
How Can a Patent Lawyer Help You?
Inventors invest a lot of time, money, and hard work into their ideas. If you have created something novel that can be of value to the world, you want to safeguard your investment. A patent allows you to do just that. A patent lawyer can delve into your invention’s finer details and ensure that you are getting the most robust protection possible through a precisely worded patent application.
A patent lawyer can also provide invaluable legal assistance if you already have a patent and are facing infringement from the competition. They will uphold your rights in court and work to protect your interests. The services of a strong patent law firm with many years of combined experience can significantly benefit your business by helping you get approved for patents that can withstand litigation and move your business forward.