Stop Paying Me So Much!
Patent lawyers typically charge between $5–12,000 to prepare a patent application. This represents something like 20–40 hours of work billed at about $250–500/hr. The result is usually a 20–50 page document filled with legalese that is barely understandable by the inventor.
But did you know that the vast majority of the patent lawyers expertise is concentrated in a single page of that document?
That’s right. By far the most important part of a patent application is the claims section, and of the claims, by far the most important is claim 1. Claim 1 is usually what determines whether your patent gets granted, and whether it holds up in court.
Of course there are exceptions, but a useful heuristic is that patent lawyers leverage all of their skills to create a broad, novel legal description of the invention in claim 1, and the rest of the patent is there for support.
A good patent lawyer may spend 5–10 hours digesting the invention and carefully crafting the perfect claim 1, along with a few key supporting claims. The rest of their time is spent on either 1) things that could easily be done by a competent technical writer (or draftsman) that charges about half as much as a lawyer, or 2) things that can easily be automated.
So why would a lawyer waste their time doing things that don’t require their skills as a lawyer? Because most lawyers charge by the hour, and are looking to maximize their hours. The market sets the prices that people are willing to pay, and they fill up their time to meet the hours necessary to charge that much.
But the industry is starting to change. Some corporation and inventors are starting to realize that a big change is under way in the patent preparation industry. If your lawyer isn’t leveraging technology to improve efficiency, they are wasting your time and money. If you are paying money to a patent lawyer, you should ask them: what processes and technology are they using?