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 The Inventor's Mentor

October 2012 

How to Minimize Legal Costs  

Inventors are faced with prohibitive expenses. In this column we shall explore how you can lower your legal costs.


1)       Draft a Business plan.

Before investing any time, effort and money on an invention, you need to determine if it has any business potential. You should draw up a business plan. For example you should answer some of the questions below:

  • What is your market? Who will buy your invention?
  • How will your invention be manufactured? By whom?
  • How much will it cost to manufacture?
  • How will it be advertised?
  • How will it be distributed and sold?
  • How will you price this product?
  • How much are competing products selling for?
  • How does your product compare to the competition?
  • How much profit will you make?

If your invention has no business potential, stop right here. You do not need to incur any legal cost.     


2)       Do the initial search yourself.         

In our modern competitive world, it is difficult to come up with a brand new idea. If you think you have a new idea, search for it on the Internet. You may find that someone else has thought of it. If this is the case stop right here. You have done yourself a service by avoiding the legal cost of pursuing an idea that you cannot protect. If your idea appears to be new, ask a professional to repeat the search. A good search is insurance against wasting time and money on an idea that already exists.


3)       No prototype is necessary

You have determined that the idea has business potential and is new. It is therefore urgent that you protect it before someone else files for patent before you.  You do not need to build a prototype to file for a patent.   

4)       Write up your invention clearly before presenting it to a patent attorney or a patent agent.           

You will minimize your cost by minimizing the labor of your attorney or agent. Write a description, with drawings if possible, of your invention as clearly as you can before meeting with a potential legal representative. He will likely have to rewrite your description in accordance with USPTO rules, but at least he will have a good starting point. He will appreciate the clarity of your description and may quote you a lower rate accordingly.            

5)       Shop around before you pick a legal representative.                

Ask prospective attorneys and agents if they are familiar with the technology of your invention, how many years they have been in the business and where they are located. Rely on word of mouth to pick your legal representative.         

6)       Avoid big law firms.          

In general large law firms have high expenses and charge more than an attorney or agent who has a lower overhead.                          

7)       Be wary of promotional companies.              

As mentioned in a previous newsletter many inventors have been scammed by promotional companies. If you want to utilize a promotional company try to get a personal referral. Otherwise, if you have the time and inclination do the promotion yourself.  

8)       Ask for a fixed flat rate.   

To compare pricing between potential attorneys or agents, you should request a fixed flat rate. Beware of basement prices especially if they are quoted by Internet legal mills. Often, patents written by such entities are of poor quality and may later lead to difficulties in obtaining or enforcing the patent.   

9)        To minimize your upfront cost, apply first for a provisional application.

A provisional application allows you to protect your invention at a lower upfront cost than a non-provisional application. It lasts only one year during which you can use the term “patent pending.” However, a provisional is not examined by the patent office and is not proof that your invention is really new. Before the year is over you must file a non-provisional to keep the early filing date of the provisional. A reputable attorney or agent will use the work already performed on a well written provisional to draft the non-provisional and may reduce his fees accordingly.                 

10)   File the non-provisional after confirmation of potential success.          

As soon as your provisional is filed, work in earnest on your invention. Your goal is to evaluate the market and determine before the year is over if you should go ahead with the non-provisional or if you should give up the idea.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Next month we’ll discuss another topic. Stay tuned. For archived newsletters and a lot of information for the small inventor go to:        
        If you have any question you can contact me at (858)259-2226 or email me at     
        This newsletter should not be construed as being legal advice.                                                               ©2012 by George Levy