Which is better, a patent attorney or a patent agent. It is my view that each has strengths and weaknesses and that an inventor benefits from both lower costs and a higher quality patent by understanding these issues.
In general, a patent attorney will have a better grasp of how precedent in the law, especially the decisions of the Federal Circuit, impact claim wording. But most attorneys do not have any practical engineering experience.
Patent attorneys fall into two classes, those who's primary activity is drafting patents and those who litigate. They tend to have very different personalities. It is my view that an inventor can use patent agents, patent attorneys and litigators to their benefit.
A patent agent generally makes half the hourly rate that a patent attorney makes, and the agents usually have practical engineering experience which patent attorneys generally lack. So I think that an inventor would often having their patent application drafted by a patent agent, but reviewed by at least one patent attorney. I think that a patent agent is likely to understand the functioning of an invention better than the patent attorney, but that the patent attorney is likely to better understand the nuances of claim wording.
Locating a contingency litigator and seeking their advice before you do any marketing can save you a great deal of grief further down the road. Make sure that you conduct business such that you create a good paper trail of all your sales activity.
When selecting a patent practitioner make sure you select one who's engineering background is suitable for the nature of your invention. If your invention is a simple mechanical device, then select a patent practitioner who has a mechanical engineering background or possibly an aeronautics engineering background. Likewise select chemical, electrical, computer, software, biotech, etc., as appropriate for your invention.
Ronald J. Riley
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