From a legal standpoint, nothing is stopping an inventor from preparing a patent application (or a provisional patent application) without the help of a lawyer. Thousands of inventors do this regularly, using self-help guides such as Patent It Yourself by Nolo, Patent Pending in 24 Hours or the online provisional patent application process. The cost of hiring a patent lawyer can be too expensive for many individual inventors, students and start-ups. While the patent application process can be lengthy and complex, it is possible to apply for a patent without an attorney.
The provisional patent application is not legally binding. There are no formal requirements to fill one out. However, it is important to be detailed enough to protect every aspect of your invention. This is why hiring a patent lawyer to file the provisional patent application is often recommended.
While you can do it yourself, research alone can be overwhelming and time consuming. Filing a provisional patent application without the help of a lawyer may be an option for some inventors, but certain risks must be taken into account. While you don't need an attorney, you can reduce costs by preparing your own application and filing it yourself. The priority of your request depends on how clearly you describe your invention. Plus, you can save money if you prepare and write your own application.
While the costs of filing a provisional patent application are lower than those of a full-fledged utility patent application, they are still higher than those of a non-provisional application. A provisional patent application protects you for one year, during which you must prepare your full patent application. You can file a non-provisional patent application and request that your patent be reviewed and issued immediately, as long as you have the funds to do so. Professionals who are not lawyers, such as patent agents and patent librarians, can also help in researching the state of the art. The United States grants patent rights to the first person to file a patent application for a particular invention. A patent search on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) website or a search for patent applications can help you check if your invention is truly original or not.
As your patent becomes more complicated or USPTO patent examiners express concern about some aspect of the application, the legal costs could be significantly higher. These claims relate to the provisional patent application, not to the non-provisional official patent application. You can check if your invention is unique or not by performing a patent search on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website or using the World Intellectual Property Organization website. You should know that you'll pay more if you don't have the budget to pay a patent lawyer. You may have seen from the list of terminology that patent attorneys aren't your only option for professional assistance. However, you should keep in mind that hiring a patent attorney is an expensive option for those who are unsure about the legal process.
Despite these cost savings, when it comes to filing a patent application, many inventors prefer to use the services of a certified patent specialist with scientific or technical training. This 12-month period cannot be extended, so if you don't file the non-provisional patent within the designated time frame, you will no longer have any patent protection for your invention.