When it comes to getting a patent in the United States, there is only one show in town. That is, there is only one government agency that issues U.S. patents, and that is (surprise!) the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Spoiler alert: the USPTO is also the sole source for federal trademark registrations, although we will save that discussion for a different blog.
Why does this matter?
Because unlike with state law matters when you use an attorney licensed
in the respective state where you have a legal issue, with patent law (which is exclusively federal) you are represented by an attorney or agent who is licensed to practice before the USPTO. To become registered to practice before the USPTO, a practitioner must have a qualified science or engineering degree/education AND pass the patent bar, a “fun” little examination on the thousands of rules and regulations patent practitioners get to deal with on a daily basis.
Patent Agents vs. Patent Attorneys
The difference between a patent agent and a patent attorney is that a patent attorney has ventured even further beyond the science/engineering degree and gone on to law school to get a law degree. Patent attorneys typically take one or more state bar exams to become registered to practice
law in those states as well, in addition to practicing before the USPTO. For example, I personally am a licensed attorney in both Texas and Florida, in addition to being a registered patent attorney with the USPTO. And you are correct, I never ever want to take another bar exam.
The Patent Process
So what is the first step in getting a patent in Florida (or any other state, for that matter)? Simple, getting a qualified patent attorney to help you. “Can’t I represent myself before the USPTO?”, you might ask. You certainly can, and this is called “pro se” representation. But there is a reason the USPTO cautions that “it is strongly suggested that you use the services of a registered patent attorney or agent” to prepare and prosecute your patent application. (Emphasis added).
The USPTO puts it this way:
“Filing a patent application is a legal process and requires an extensive knowledge of patent law to be able to prosecute your application before the office. It can be done, but requires a significant amount of homework on the part of the applicant to be versed enough to draft your claims, respond to office actions and determine when to pursue and when to abandon.”
A word of caution. Be very wary of so-called invention promoters or promotion firms. You may have seen commercials on television for companies that say they will help you research, patent, and market your invention. There is no easy, “one-stop-shop” alternative to take the place of working with your own patent attorney. Yet, some of these invention promoters have taken advantage of inventors in the past, so much so that the USPTO website dedicates a whole page to inventor scam prevention,
which can be found online.
Some sage advice from the USPTO on this front:
“Always check the reputation of invention promoters/promotions firms before making any commitments. Remember, not all invention promoters/promotion firms are legitimate. It’s best to be wary of any firm that promises too much and/or costs too much.”
If you have questions on how to get started, just drop us a note here and we will be happy to help walk you through it.