So you have conceptualized your idea, and want to move forward to the production stage. First you must insure that you have fully mentally conceived your invention to the point that a trained professional in your field could make and operate it. At this point you can begin the patent application process, as the USPTO does not require a prototype. It is however a good idea to produce one since you will be required to submit another application if your prototype differs from the original patent. You “can” file a patent application yourself but here are a few tips to evaluate if this is right for your situation:
- Learning Time: Patent applications are a skilled trait and patent attorneys have a bachelor’s in engineering or science as well as a law degree. It will take you about 200 hours of time to learn how to write patent applications and get them through the patent process successful. There are plenty of websites and books to help you along the way. If you are up for the challenge and have the time on your hands then this is a viable option.
- Urgency: Patents take a while to process which usually amounts to 3 to 4 years. Is your invention ready for market? Do you have investors or retailers wanting your product? Maybe a competitor is on your heals and you fear they may take your idea. If your application is time sensitive and must be done in a hurry, than you should enlist the help of a lawyer. They will be able to speed up the process as well as give you legal advise on other aspects of selling your invention.
- Opportunity Cost: Ask yourself are you really willing to learn a complex legal discipline? Perhaps but most likely your time will be better spent improving your own craft or acquiring funding. You could be prototyping, improving, or marketing your invention. Patent law is a competitive skilled trade not for the faint hearted: Think pocket protector nerds with a suit and tie.
- Price: Patent applications come with mandatory government fees and adding the lawyer bill to this can get pricey, into the 10s of thousands of dollars. You can go the solo route to save money but your application may be rejected and you will have to then learn the proper litigation to appeal. This will add to the hours you have already spent learning how to draft the application in the first place. Remember time is money so you must weigh the time spent learning against the cost of the attorney. If you could have used that same time to make more money or prefect your invention, it is wise to go with an attorney.
If you have the time, patients and learning capacity then by all means take a crack at filing your own application. Just be aware that the process is a long and complex one. If you are not willing to fully invest in this then seriously think about hiring a patent attorney.