Patent It Yourself?

Not Such a Great Idea?

Should you patent it yourself? I promise I will not repeat the old joke about the person who represents himself or herself has a fool for a client. Whoops - I just did.

First let's get the legal aspects clear. In 37 CFR 1.31 it clearly states:

    An applicant for patent may file and prosecute his or her own application, and thus act as his or her own representative (pro se) before the Office.

So you can definitely patent it yourself. The US Patent Office term for this is pro se. Pro se is Latin and means "for himself". Not only can you do it yourself but the US Patent Office will be especially helpful to pro se inventors - often suggesting things they need to change to stay out of difficulty.

But as you can probably tell from my initial flippant remarks I think it is a really bad idea.

Let me tell you why. It is not because I want you to come to me instead so I can make more money. I am doing just fine thank you and don't need your money. And it is not because I want to help all the other patent agents and attorneys I know - they can take care of themselves.

No - I think it is a bad idea because after you have invested all of your time and funds into your invention, including prototyping, scale up, marketing, etc I want you to have the strongest patent protection possible. And you are unlikely to get it on a first try at the patent office.

Think about it. To get your invention to market may cost you (or your investors) tens of thousands of dollars and possibly even 100's of thousands. Why would you then risk your patent protection to save a few thousand?

Actually - even though the examiner is trained to help pro se inventors they often realize how bad the situation is and will send you a recommendation that you find a patent practitioner. This happens enough that the MPEP has a boilerplate paragraph for examiners to send you.

Here it is:

    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.

That paragraph should give you pause.

The examiner sends that only if he/she believes you have patentable subject matter. If not he/she is trained to not send the above paragraphs but instead to tell you you really do not have enough to patent.

I want you again to understand that I am not saying you cannot do it. You can definitely do it - it is not rocket science. Heck I can do it.

But why do you want to invest all of that time in learning how to do it? Don't you have a business to run, a product to build and market, a customer to create?

O.K. - Enough Warning.

O.K. - If I have not talked you out of it, what should you do? I strongly recommend that you buy a copy of "Patent It Yourself" by David Pressman. David is a patent attorney and a very good writer. He takes you step by step through what you need to do. I keep a copy of it in my bookcase because it is a very useful reference. In fact even if you hire a patent agent you might want to get a copy of it.

I could try to teach you what to do in these articles - but frankly you cannot do much better than using David's book.

So if you want to patent it yourself - let David Pressman be your guide. And good luck.


Patent It Yourself
Return to the Top of This Page

The Business of Patents Home Page
Return to Home Page

Invention Ideas
Return to the Invention Ideas Page

Mike Ervin
Mike Ervin - Cost Effective Small Business Patent Protection.

Contact Me
If you have any questions on on this site - please feel free to contact me.