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By J.D. Houvener
Patent Attorney and Founder

The lawn is growing like crazy weeds in the back of my backyard, and I’ve got to clean it up. How do you find a landscaper? You got me. But how do you find a solid patent attorney? Okay, it’s a great service area. How do you find a trusted advisor to move your invention forward? Right, this is your baby. How do you make sure you’re working with the right firm and the right people?

I’m J.D. Houvener, managing partner, and CEO here at Bold Patents Law Firm. It’s my pleasure to talk with you here today about how to find the right IP and patent firm that’s right for you.

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So I’ve broken this down into about four different stages. I want to make sure we get into the real holistic way to find a great match. What is the best way to move forward with your invention to know you’ve got a trusted partner in this? The first step is making sure that you really do need patents. The second thing is looking at the differences between a big firm, a medium-sized firm, and a small firm. Right, size does matter. The third aspect is looking at people. It does actually matter about who the people are and understanding their backgrounds and their way of working. The main differences are: are they someone that’s working directly with you in person? And if that’s important to you, or if you’re more comfortable with a virtual, remote someone who’s on the phone or through video or through email. Last but not least, go with your gut. We’ll talk about how gut feel does have a lot to go with it, and what I mean by gut is your own style, meaning how involved do you really want to be with this process? And that’s going to set the stage for a lot of the way you should decide in working with the right law firm, patent attorney, an IP firm.

All right, so first of all, patents. Is the right aspect for you, and this is a great starting point because a lot of inventors start out thinking, “Yeah, I’ve got to start my company, and the best way to get started is with patents.” And you’ve got to understand that lawyers come from all different walks, right? Lawyers have backgrounds in business law and tax and formation and intellectual property, and they don’t all do it all. At Bold Patents Law Firm, all we do is federal patent prosecution. Some law firms do it all, and they’re big mega firms like they are in a downtown area, and they do everything from wills and estates and business planning and contracts and licensing, including IP and patents. That may be a good fit for you, but let’s talk about what your actual needs are in helping to get oriented and getting started off the ground. In most cases, you probably don’t need all those bells and whistles of a different service area. If you’re getting started, and you’re a first-time inventor solo, you haven’t even formed your company yet, you may want to make sure that your technology, your innovation, is patentable first. And so it doesn’t sort of make sense for you to hire a business attorney, hire that big downtown firm to help you with everything if they’re sort of, you know, sort of a jack of all trades when really all you need is that expert in patent law.

So, first understanding what your needs are, where you’re at in your product life cycle, and your company age and overall experience. Is this your first rodeo? This is the first time you’re going through an invention process. I do encourage you to look and seek out a solo or a small firm. That’s going to be probably the best fit for you in terms of the need, you know, the legal need. They’re going to be able to help you understand your invention, of course, and walk you through whether patenting that is a smart thing. And again, that’s why I’m a huge proponent of seeking an attorney’s opinion versus some of those, you know, less scrupulous or more scrupulous companies like Invent Help or Davison or those marketing companies that, hey, they’ve got their place, but they’re not going to give you the legal advice that I honestly think inventors deserve to put their first step forward and make sure they know what they’re getting into before they get started. So, step one is making sure you’re in the right field of law and getting the right attention you need.

The second is the size of the firm. Let’s talk about the differences between those big mega firms, medium firms, and small firms and what they can do. The main reason why big firms exist is so they can serve big clients really well, okay? Big clients like Facebook or Amazon or Google, Boeing, mega companies that have products and gadgets and many employees and a lot of need for innovation and need to get patents documented to protect their own domain. Those big firms really work great for those companies that need a lot of bandwidth, that need a lot of exposure and help and handholding and support with ancillary activities about licensing the patent or contracting with investors, lining up their corporations with the different portfolios that they’ve been building. Those bigger firms are fantastic at working with the bigger clients. It’s sort of the, you know, the Mercedes or the Ferrari of law firms. They’ve got everything you need.

The medium-sized law firms have probably a lot fewer of those bells and whistles. They really are not that well-positioned to work with the mega big companies like I just listed. But at the same time, they’ve got a lot of the horsepower of the bigger firms but in a smaller scale. Now, the smaller firms, they’re probably not going to have really any of those. Like a lot of, like our firm, I would consider us to be a small firm. We don’t really offer those ancillary legal services like entity formations or licensing or contract state law. We’re really just that federal patent law, and so it’s that niche boutique law firm that does suit individuals and folks who are looking for one specific thing. What’s interesting is that a lot of times those smaller firms end up working a lot better with solo and individual inventors, small businesses because they really are small businesses themselves. And so it’s a great relationship oftentimes we have with our inventors, and that they’re like us. We’re just getting started. We’re just a sort of a burgeoning relatively small firm kind of like what they are. And so having that sort of balance is nice, and it’s refreshing to sort of be able to say, “I know where you’re coming from. I know you’re bootstrapping. You’re trying to make it work.” In a way, our firm is as well, and so we’re always looking for ways to save our clients money or advise them down the right path for the whole client, not just for their invention, if that makes sense. A bigger firm or even a medium-sized firm, to that extent, may not be quite on the same page as a solo inventor or a small business and not really appreciate those pains that they’re going through.

So, that’s the difference between the sizes of firms. This third one is probably the most important, actually: understanding the people within the firm. This is who you’re going to be working with, the individuals, the human beings that you’re working with. What’s interesting is a lot of people look up law firms online, like I was looking up landscapers earlier, and you think about the corporate website and the page and the about us and who we are as a team and our core values. But honestly, it’s about the people. You know, John Smith, Barbara Smith, these actual people that are there at the law firm. Getting to know them and appreciating, understanding who they are and hearing from them either on the phone or in person is going to make a big difference in how you perceive what they’re like. Many patent attorneys, right, they’ve gone through a science degree, they’ve gone through undergraduate law school, they’ve gone through a patent bar, the state bar. And these people have a lot of credentials to them. They’ve been through the ringer a couple of times, and they’re qualified. If they’ve got a designation USPTO patent attorney, they’re all qualified. We’re all darn good at what we do. The question is, are they in the right firm for you? And aren’t they a good fit for you personally? Do you like to talk with them? Do you relate well with them? Do they have the same core values and mission that you do? That’s really the point about number three is getting to know this individual and, in a way, interviewing them. Even if you’re paying for a half-hour consultation to speak with them, they think they’re deciding whether you’re a good fit for them. You, of course, are interviewing them to see if they’re a good fit for you. You should be thinking about it in terms of a long-term relationship because a patent isn’t a one or two-week type of project. We’re talking a multi-year project, and that’s just for one invention. Most inventors I know have several inventions up their sleeve. So this is something you’ll be working with this individual in this firm for several years. Don’t make the decision quickly and make sure you understand this is someone, an actual individual, you’re going to like down the road.

Last but not least is their style of work. I mentioned this briefly about bigger or smaller companies and how they can work with you. Are you going to be comfortable with a virtual representation? That’s how our firm works is 100% virtual. We don’t see any of our clients in person, and we like it like that because we actually work more efficiently that way. We’re able to do work over email and phone and video conferencing and get work done a whole lot faster and more efficiently than we could if we had to make you drive through traffic, sit in the parking lot, wait in the lobby, and meet us face to face. I mean, despite all this COVID coronavirus issue, we had never done that because it’s never made sense for us to put our clients through that. We want to meet them where they’re at. Don’t leave your workshop. Don’t leave your space of work. Keep working on your invention and just flip on the phone and talk with us, walk us through what you’re working on. Don’t waste time at all. But if you’re someone that just has to see someone in person in the flesh and shake hands with somebody, then our firm would not be a good fit. But you can understand when you’re looking for the right IP or patent firm, that it must meet your style and understand your style and what you need and what you desire is essential.

So, those are the four main ways to be able to find the right patent attorney or IP firm for you, looking at the different sizes of firms, what we talked about big, the small, the medium, whether patent law is the right area for you, if you need a full-service or just patent law, whether they’re a good personal fit for you, if you like them as a person, if you’re really making a good connection with them individually. And then lastly, we talked about, is it the right style for you? Virtual, in-person, how do they deliver their legal services? Is that going to work for you? That’s the best way. Those are the four ways that I’ve found most inventors that I speak with have done a great job in finding us or have found other firms that work better for them. So, without further ado, I’ll wrap up. I want to let you also know if you don’t already have it as a bookmark, please visit our website at boldip.com/blog. There, I’ve written a full list of detailed blog articles about this specific subject and others that go into even more detail. And if you haven’t yet grabbed a copy of my book, “Bold Ideas: The Inventor’s Guide to Patents,” it’s got a great chapter, chapter nine, all about how to hire a registered U.S. patent attorney. This book is available on PDF download on our website today, and also you can book a consultation if you’re ready to get started as well. My pleasure talking with you here today about how to find a new IP or patent firm. I’m J.D. Houvener, USPTO registered patent attorney and managing partner and owner at Bold Patents Law Firm. Have a great day, everybody. Go big, go bold.

About the Author
J.D. Houvener is a Registered USPTO Patent Attorney who has a strong interest in helping entrepreneurs and businesses thrive. J.D. leverages his technical background in engineering and experience in the aerospace industry to provide businesses with a unique perspective on their patent needs. He works with clients who are serious about investing in their intellectual assets and provides counsel on how to capitalize their patents in the market. If you have any questions regarding this article or patents in general, consider contacting J.D. at https://boldip.com/contact/