You have a great idea. Is patenting the best way to protect it? How much do patents cost? How do you find out if your idea is patentable?
Robert M. Hunter Registered Patent Agent Robert M. Hunter, Ph.D.

Registered Patent Agent
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Before we begin working together, I recommend that you conduct preliminary evaluations of the commercial potential and patentability of your invention for your own use. Instructions for conducting those evaluations are given in my Inventor's Guide.

Invention Disclosure

Obtaining a patent is a "team sport." Success requires that I understand your invention and how it differs from the inventions of others. So, the starting point for my work is an invention disclosure. A listing of the information I need is posted at:

Invention Disclosure Content Checklist

We can work together in a variety of ways. Please let me know which of the following approaches you wish to follow, or suggest a new approach.

While I can gain an understanding of your invention most efficiently from a written description and/or sketches, I realize that some inventors do not have the time required to prepare such documents. For this reason, some inventors choose to explain their inventions to me either in person or over the telephone. In these situations, I pay for the telephone call(s) (to anywhere in the U.S.) and the inventor pays me by the hour for preparing for and conducting a series of "interviews" during which I will solicit the information I need to coordinate a search or prepare a patent application.

Other inventors choose to either mail, fax or e-mail me a written invention disclosure. With this approach, I can give the inventor an estimate (or a firm quote) for how much it will cost for me to do my work after I see the disclosure and develop an understanding of the invention and see how well it is documented. If the inventor is good at technical writing and wishes to supply the invention disclosure in the form of a draft of a patent application (and possibly save me time and him/her money), I provide content and format guidelines at the following URLs:

Suggested Format for an Invention Disclosure

Invention Disclosure Guidelines

Just let me know the approach you favor. I am comfortable with either the verbal or written approach to learning about your invention.

Maintaining Confidentiality

In order to preserve your rights, it is very important that our communications be kept confidential. Under U.S. law, I am legally bound (as a registered patent agent) to maintain in confidence anything you disclose to me about your invention. (The only exception to that rule is that you and I are legally required to disclose to the USPTO any information that is material to an evaluation of the patentability of a claimed invention, but only after a regular U.S. patent application is filed.)

However, I understand your concerns about confidentiality. If you wish, I would be happy to sign a standard non-disclosure agreement in which I expressly agree to maintain the information you disclose to me in confidence. Just let me know what you are calling your invention as well as your full name and mailing address and I will mail you a signed copy of the agreement.

I have posted on my website a copy of the confidentiality agreement (as a Word file) I use with clients who request one.

In that we are communicating using a relatively new medium (e-mail), I recommend that we be cautious about discussing the details of your invention in unencrypted e-mail messages. (The U.S. Courts have not yet been asked to decide how confidential an unencrypted e-mail message is.) If you wish to discuss the details of your invention in e-mail messages, please purchase and install a Digital ID from Verisign. I will deduct the $14.95 that it costs from my first invoice to you. (This is a no-obligation gift to my clients from me.) With a Digital ID installed, we can send each other state-of-the-art, encrypted e-mail messages. Otherwise we can communicate via mail at one of the address on my Contact page. Unfortunately, the last time I checked, AOL indicated it does not allow message encryption.

Professional Services

Once I have let you know how much my services will cost, you can decide which services you wish me to perform. I will then send you an Engagement Letter to sign that will form the contract between us. I have posted on my website a copy of my Engagement Letter (as a Word file). Generally, I require that I receive a retainer of 100% of my estimated fee (50% for clients I have worked with before) for the initial task (e.g., a novelty search) before I commence work.

As time is usually of the essense in the preparation of provisional patent applications, I ask that you submit a retainer check along with your invention disclosure. I will then prepare a free estimate of total costs, after which the amount of the retainer may change. In that way, if my schedule premits, I can start work of the application immediately after I receive your approval. I look forward to working with you. [I do not work on contengency basis unless I can first review (and agree with) a complete business plan that sets out how the invention will be developed and commercialized.]

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