Patent Lawyers: What They Do, How They Differ & How to Choose the Right One

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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When you’re seeking to patent your invention, you need a patent lawyer. Patent law is a highly specialized area of the law and a good patent lawyer will make sure that your invention is protected. Russ Weinzimmer, a patent attorney whose practice works with individuals and small companies to help them protect their inventions and intellectual property, explained what patent lawyers do, how they differ and how to choose the right one for your situation.

What Patent Lawyers Do

Patent lawyers can help inventors research their invention, guide them through the patent application process and create a patent that will protect that invention. However, knowing how to do that the right way doesn’t mean just graduating from law school.

Weinzimmer, who worked for one of the best patent firms in Boston for many years before starting his own practice, told us that when a person wants to become a patent attorney, they actually enter an apprenticeship. He explained:

Just because a person has gone to law school does not mean that they know how to write a patent application. Just because they’ve actually passed the patent bar does not mean they know how to write a patent application. To learn how to write a patent application takes years of working as an apprentice with an experienced patent attorney. In fact, most lawyers do not understand patent law at all.

There’s never been a successful company which has their engineers writing their own patent applications, according to Weinzimmer. They always either have a patent attorney in-house or they bring one in from the outside. It avoids compromising on quality.

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How Patent Lawyers Differ

Patent lawyers are definitely nota dime a dozen. In fact, firms who decide to service individuals and small companies may not always provide them with the best service, according to Weinzimmer. He explained:

Many times, patent law firms provide them with a very junior patent attorney with inadequate experience. If they do have a senior attorney involved, that attorney will generally not supervise the junior attorney adequately. Those are the big or medium patent firms who mostly focus on corporate clients. Their intention is to have a client base of corporate clients, so when individuals or very small companies approach them, they don’t really get good attention.

He says that this lack of attention can be disastrous. “When a patent application is poorly written, it may be worthless and possibly harmful because it creates the illusion of protection. You might make mistakes in judgment and in how to conduct your business because you think you have that legal protection when in fact, you don’t.”

How to Choose the Right Patent Lawyer

Patent law is a highly specialized area of law. To do good patent work, you must have good technical insight. However, not every patent lawyer who is also an engineer or scientist has the capacity to write, teach, explain and clarify.

Weinzimmer says that many patent attorneys are very inarticulate and simply can’t explain what they know. He told us that when choosing the right patent lawyer, it’s important to make sure that he or she has the ability to deeply understand the invention and its technical aspects. He continued:

A good patent lawyer must have the rare abilities of explaining, elucidating, clarifying and simplifying. Writing a good patent application takes legal knowledge, technical knowledge and then the ability to explain all of that in a clear, concise manner that can withstand attacks from some of the smartest patent attorneys in the country if the patent becomes litigated.

Weinzimmer recently did just that on the Ellen DeGeneres show where he was invited to obtain a patent for a young boy who invented something to help his sister with her physical therapy. He said it was a wonderful experience to explain the patent law process, help this young man who was trying to help his own sister and to be on the Ellen show.

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