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Patent Protection: You Get What You Pay For

Is our Covid economy the real mother of invention? It appears to be. Whether it's because of a lost job or a slashed salary or working at home, people are searching for ways to make money outside of corporate America.

Inventors who have had their own idea germinating for years, believe now is the time to put their ideas into action. Other at-home inventors look to transform their hobbies into lucrative careers. The business of inventing is morphing from a corporate affair to an individual endeavor - inventing for profit. I am seeing more individual inventors trying to convert their long-simmering ideas into profits.

These savvy entrepreneurs know that they need to protect their intellectual capital and patent their invention, but may be stymied as to where to turn. Large law firms are way beyond their budgets, and to their credit, they are wary of the low-cost provider. While inventors realize they get what they pay for, they are not exactly sure why they should pay more. Isn't a patent a patent? Not exactly.

The goal of a patent is to protect innovation and build a business. In a patent application, a crucial part of the process is the claims portion, which provides a technical and detailed definition of the legal protection conferred by the patent. That's where experience and expertise come into play. Cheap patents are less expensive because the claims tend to be too narrow and provide little, if any, useful rights. The price reduction often means reduced patent protection. (For one example of the importance of a well-prosecuted patent application see AGA Medical (AGAM) to Pay $35M in Medtronic (MDT) Patent Litigation Settlement ( which reports a large damage award based in part on patents prosecuted by me.

From another perspective, it takes approximately one to two years to bring a new patent attorney to a level of competence. I wrote the book on how to train these attorneys (How to Write a Patent Application, published by the Practising Law Institute). The book alone costs more than what some of the fly-by-night patent attorneys or do-it-yourself web sites are charging for a patent application. Can an inventor sleep at night with that level of protection?

At the same time, getting quality help with your patent doesn't have to mean going to someone who is overpriced. Inventors need to look at how to best spend their patent dollars in order to get the greatest return on their investment.

For those pursuing inventing as a hobby, it might make sense to get a patent from the lowest bidder. But, for entrepreneurs inventing for profit, the patent process becomes part of an overall business strategy, and a solid foundation for success.

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