Frequently Asked Questions
Contact us if you have questions about issues facing your business or are interested in talking about developing an IP strategy.
Drafting and filing a patent application involves an attorney and the United States Patent Office (USPTO). Typically, the most significant expense in this process is the attorney's time for drafting and describing your invention in the appropriate language as a patent application and figures, a document which can range from 20-50 pages.
The ability to predict and control your costs is one of the most critical parts of any financial transaction. That is why it is a goal of Labyrinth Law to provide you with a fixed fee service agreement based on the complexity and scope of the invention. I want my clients to feel free to communicate with me about the invention without the fear of an unexpected monthly bill. The ability to have open conversations can lead to discoveries that might not come up in a timed environment.
As a general guideline, the flat fee service agreement will cover all of the activity related to preparing and filing the application (including the USPTO filing fees and preparation of drawings in compliance with the USPTO regulations) and all of my communication with the client regarding the application before, during, and after filing the application. The flat application filing fee will not cover responses to subsequent office actions, appeals fees, payment of the issue fee, or payment of maintenance fees, paid to the USPTO, over the life of a patent.
The average wait time until the United States Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) provides the results of the Patent Examiner's first substantive review and examination of a patent application is about 21 months. The average time it takes to obtain a patent from the patent office is about 32 months, or a little under 3 years.
After you file a provisional or non-provisional patent application, but before the patent is granted, you are given a "patent pending" status. You are not required to wait until you obtain a patent to start exploiting (making, marketing, selling, licensing, etc.) your invention. You can begin doing so after the patent application is filed, as long as the patent application fully describes and covers all the elements of your invention that you intend to disclose and use publicly.
Utility patents last 20 years from the date of filing. Design patents last 14 years from the date of filing. However, periodic fees are required to maintain the enforceability of the patent. The first maintenance fee is due approximately 4 years after the patent issues. The second maintenance fee is due approximately 8 years after the patent issues, and the third and final maintenance fee is due approximately 12 years from the patent issue date. Non-payment of any maintenance fee when it is due results in abandonment of the patent.
A provisional patent application provides the means to establish an early effective filing date, but it does not put your patent in the queue to be examined. A provisional patent application is akin to getting a place holder at the USPTO. A U.S. non-provisional patent application or International (PCT) patent application must be filed within one year of the filing date of the provisional application in order to claim the benefit of the provisional application filing date.
The filing fees for provisional patent applications can be less expensive than for utility patent applications. This may give you time to explore the marketability and profitability of a given invention before committing to a more costly utility patent application process. However, it is important to work with a patent attorney to file a quality provisional application so that your invention is well-described and protected.
If your goal is to raise funds to bring a unique product or service to market, I highly recommended you consult with an IP attorney to discuss your particular product or service to determine whether IP protection is feasible before talking with any venture capitalist or launching a crowdfunding campaign.
By describing your unique product and/or service on a crowdfunding website or other publicly accessible platform you are publicly disclosing your product. The public disclosure of a new product prior to the filing of a patent application can have severe consequences for an inventor or entrepreneur, including being precluded from filing a patent application.
Companies choose trade secrets over patents for three main reasons: to avoid the costly patenting process, to avoid disclosing company technologies through patent publications, and to take advantage of trade secret protection for a period longer than the period for patent protection (20 years).
Trade secrets have considerable risks, however, and weaker protections than patents. Though trade secret law allows you to go after employees who leak confidential information or companies that steal your technology, it does not protect you from competitors that independently develop your technology.