Are you still paying $10,000 (or more!) for your patent attorney to prepare and file a patent application for your invention? Pardon me while I sound like a teenager – but that is “so 90’s.”

I remember when I started working as a patent agent and then as a patent attorney in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The typical quote for preparing and filing a very basic US patent application was $8,000, plus costs to have a draftsman prepare professional drawings (translation – add another $500 to $1,000), plus government filing fees (translation – add another $500). Many patent law firms charged for long distance telephone calls, postage, copies, and support staff time. It was common practice for a single patent application to cost $10,000 or more. And I worked at small and medium size law firms.

This was back when dockets (code name for patent attorney deadline calendars) were usually written on paper calendars – or for the really advanced, using an Microsoft Outlook Calendar (or similar). Conflicts checks were maintained manually using 3×5 index card files – or again for the really advanced, using a Microsoft Word document (or similar).

Most patent attorneys barely understood how to use a computer, much less how to prepare their own drawings. The patent attorney would sketch out drawings using a pencil and paper and fax the sketches to their draftsman. The patent attorney still had their support staff taking dictation. Revisions were using a red pen and then returned to the draftsman or support staff to make updates. Some patent law firms still used type-writers!

Anything that had to be filed with the US Patent Office had to be filed using the US Post Office Express Mail Service, and the Express Mail envelope had to be taken to the US Post Office and signed by a postal employee. A postcard itemizing everything in the Express Mail envelope had to be included, so that a clerk at the US Patent Office could check off everything listed on the postcard to make sure it was actually included in the Express Mail envelope, and then mail the approved postcard back to the patent attorney.

If the patent attorney didn’t receive the approved postcard back within about one month, the patent attorney would have to follow-up with a written status inquiry to the US Patent Office. If the Express Mail envelope was never received, there was an entire process for proving the patent application was actually filed. Yes, this actually happened at least one time that I can remember. The process of proving we filed the patent application included getting an affidavit from the US postal employee.

Even when all went as planned, physical copies of everything had to be made for the client’s records, and for the client’s file at the patent attorney’s office. Then a formal cover letter had to be prepared (typically by the support staff and signed by the patent attorney after one or two revisions) on official stationary and mailed to the client via the postal service.

As you can probably tell, preparing and filing a patent application was a very time consuming process, and in order to pay for all this overhead and still make a living, the patent attorney had to charge $10,000 or more for a single patent application.

But times have changed. Today, patent attorneys know (or should know) how to use a computer to prepare their own documents. And fairly complex drawings can be easily prepared and revised,  by patent attorney, using fairly inexpensive computer graphics software. All filings with the US Patent Office are electronic via a secure Internet site.

Paper files are no longer necessary. Files can easily be maintained by the patent attorney in electronic format, and backed up securely, offsite, and fairly inexpensively. Correspondence can be entirely by email.

In general, overhead has gone way down, and efficiency of the patent attorney has gone way up. What does this mean to you? In addition to the cost of having a patent attorney prepare and file a patent application being significantly less today than just 10 years ago, your patent attorney should also be able to communicate nearly instantaneously with you.

For example, at Trenner Law Firm, we always send copies of all filing paperwork to the client, including copies of the patent application and electronic receipt from the US Patent Office, on the same day that we file a patent application with the US Patent Office. Need to know the status of your patent application. We can look that up electronically on the US Patent Office secure Internet site while you’re on the phone.

A lot has changed since I started practicing. I’d say all for the better.

Recommended Posts