POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 23, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 9:14 p.m. HST, Feb 3, 2011
QUESTION: I have an idea for a new product. How do I get a patent?
ANSWER: If you've got an idea, the first thing to do is describe it in writing. After this is written down, I encourage people to do a prior art (patent) search so you don't spend $500, $5,000 or $50,000 preparing and filing a patent application only to find out ... your invention was invented in 1924.
You are out a lot of dough, and you could have avoided it by going to www.uspto.gov, clicking on patents, clicking on search and there are several forms ... to check out whether you have an invention or you had the same idea that someone else had before you.
Then you take your written document to a notary public and have them notarize it because in the U.S. it is not a race to the patent office; it's first to invent. Now that you've got a notarized invention disclosure, you might want to file it as a provisional patent application. It costs $110, and it gives you a filing date. Filing dates are very important.
Q: Should I do that myself?
A: You should definitely file a provisional (patent application) yourself because what you want to give a patent attorney, to start with, is your best shot at describing your invention.
Q: Do I need a patent attorney?
A: It's always recommended to use a patent attorney to draft the claims (part of the nonprovisional patent that describes what is protected) because they are a strange and almost indecipherable form of English to the noninitiated. I haven't ever seen a first-time applicant write claims that didn't need a lot of work.
Q: How much does a patent attorney cost?
A: My answer to that question is, How much does a house cost, because you're covering area in both cases, and how are you covering the area? You might have a 5,000-square-foot house, or you might have a 1,500-square-foot house. In the larger house you are probably going to have more rooms with more specialized fixtures.
I have done patents where I look at the claims for a guy who has done many applications himself ... and my time to review that patent was probably two hours. So I bill at $350 an hour. For roughly $1,200 (including the $462 filing fee), he's got a patent filed.
There is a sliding scale of what this will cost you based on how much you write and how much I write. Letting me operate in review-and-edit mode is much less expensive for you than my drafting. ... The process of articulating the invention is best done by the inventor.
Q: How much time does it take to prepare a patent application?
A: It depends on whether they are short and sweet. You can do some kind of gadget, tech fashion accessory, and maybe you spend a day on that. It is done. Others will be 100 pages on a pharmaceutical and you are going into 30 different countries, and that one patent can be your entire year.
Q: How many patent attorneys are there in Hawaii?
A: There are, to my knowledge, only four or five really active guys.
— Interviewed by David Butts