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