How to find a good patent attorney: find two attorneys, and have each one evaluate the other attorney’s work.
Here is a simple technique to find a good patent attorney: start with at least *two* candidates. Ask each attorney to give you a sample of their work, and take the sample to the other attorney. It would be best to get an issued patent, not just a patent application publication.
Ask each attorney to evaluate the other patent attorney’s work, and ask the following questions:
1. Is this patent well written? What elements of it make it good or bad?
2. Could this patent be enforced or licensed? Where are the problem areas with this patent? What are its strengths?
3. How would you attack this patent if it were enforced against me?
4. How would you put a dollar value on this patent if I were to buy or sell this patent? What factors would you consider?
Your goal is to have a fair critique of each patent attorney’s work by someone who is in the business. Your other goal is to figure out if the one doing the critique has the skills to think through the commercial uses of patents, not just whether they could get something through the patent office.
This technique evaluates both attorneys at the same time: the one doing the evaluation as well as the one whose work is being evaluated.
Most people use recommendations, word of mouth, and perceived reputation when trying to find a good patent attorney, but perversely, these factors often have nothing to do with the quality of work. A person who hires a very expensive attorney automatically assumes that they are hiring “the best”, but their only metric of quality is the price tag.
Price is not an indicator of patent quality.
I know a couple of attorneys who give clients very big hardcover books with all their patent filing documents. These have the invention with gold embossing on the spine and the inventor’s name in big letters. The inventors carry the books around like their babies, but the content in those books are some of the worst patent applications I have seen. The attorneys do everything they can to inflate the thickness of the books, so that the thickness of the books is an implied “value” or “quality” of the work product.
I think the hard bound books are a genius marketing ploy. Clients love the books and – here’s the beauty of it – the books hide some terrible incompetence by the attorneys.
The quality of the patent will not be realized until years later, when you want to sell your company or when a competitor starts encroaching in your marketplace. Only then will you know if your patent will withstand real commercial scrutiny, and you may be devastated to find out that the patent may be worthless.
Try to strip off the gimmicks, price tags, mahogany offices, and perceived reputation and have your attorney evaluated by what really matters: does your patent attorney know what makes your patent strong for your business purposes and can they articulate that for you?