The Person Who Represents Himself Has A Fool For A Client
Everyone knows the age-old saying, “You get what you pay for.” Yet, we constantly try to trick ourselves into defying this adage and being the next person to strike rich with little effort and investment. Everyone wants more of a bargain for their buck; however, this battle is often lost and the end result is a sub-par item, a shoddy service, or the self-proclamation of “Fool” written across one’s forehead.
This concept in purchasing may be paralleled in the process of patent prosecution. When obtaining a patent, the inventor will get what he pays for and a well written patent should not be compromised.
Yet, as natural, humans will try to find the least expensive alternative, whether when buying a product or paying a patent attorney. Some inventors contemplate the “Patent It Yourself” theory. Pro se representation may have some up-front advantages, for example saving money on patent attorney fees and not having to rely on the attorney’s schedule. However, these advantages may become superficial once you understand the risks involved.
Patent prosecution is very tedious. In order to successfully gain patent protection, one must understand many rules. For example, filing a patent application requires the filing of certain documents such as an Oath and Declaration as well as an Information Disclosure Sheet. Patent applications follow certain formatting rules; for instance an Abstract of the Invention should not exceed 150 words or 15 lines. Certain dates and deadlines, if missed, could serve as a bar to patent rights. An inventor only has a year from the date he/she discloses an invention to file for patent protection; further, if a provisional patent application is filed for, it must be converted to a non-provisional within one year or else the patent rights are lost. In order to file in another country, the applicant has to do so within a year of filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The list goes on and on, including the substantive rules of filing a patent application, such as what is in the specification and what is actually claimed. If an inventor represents themselves pro se, they may make costly mistakes preparing the application. Such mistakes may take more time and money to amend and worse, some damages cannot be mitigated. If patent claims are written too narrowly, or the specification lacks the proper description of the invention, some or all of the expected patent protection rights could be foregone. Not to mention that an inventor representing himself pro se may make these mistakes after spending a considerable amount of time reading hundreds of pages from a self-help guide for drafting a patent.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is inviting of pro se inventors and even prepares its employees for the happenstance. However, all too often the patent examiner becomes aware that the pro se inventor could use some professional guidance. Examiners follow the rules and procedures of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, and this manual has a boilerplate paragraph for examiners to send that lends itself to such a situation:
An examination of this application reveals that applicant is unfamiliar with patent prosecution procedure. While an inventor may prosecute the application, lack of skill in this field usually acts as a liability in affording the maximum protection for the invention disclosed. Applicant is advised to secure the services of a registered patent attorney or agent to prosecute the application, since the value of a patent is largely dependent upon skilled preparation and prosecution. The Office cannot aid in selecting an attorney or agent.
As an inventor, you have already invested much of your time and money into your invention. You could spend more of your valuable time learning how to patent your invention yourself; however, your idea still may not be adequately protected or the examiner may recommend that you seek help from a patent attorney. Just as you would be a self-proclaimed fool to expect the best product for the cheapest price, you would be a fool to expect the highest patent protection without hiring a professional. After all, as the saying goes, “the person who represents himself has a fool for a client.”