Patent agents can be very useful to inventors for researching and preparing patents. I use an agent for patent searches and opinions and to write the majority of my utility patents. That doesn't mean that I don't use patent attorneys, I do, but usually for more complicated or more valuable patents. Patent attorneys are also the only ones that can help clients with patent validity, infringement cases, and all patent litigation.
Agents cannot represent you in legal matters like an attorney but they can prepare, file, and prosecute patent applications.
Many of the agents I have worked with work for themselves and because they are independent, they offer more affordable rates. You don't have to pay for the high rise with marble floors. Cost is the key reason to use an agent instead of an attorney. For most independent inventors and small companies cost is always important. If you use an agent effectively you can save yourself some money.
You can obtain a list of agents from the patent office directly at
their website. They will not make specific recommendations so you still
have to do your homework before deciding to use a particular agent.
Other places to look include the yellow pages and of course online.
There are several questions to ask anyone whether agent or attorney before you turn over your patent to them:
Be smart when working with any professional on your invention. Ask questions and don't be caught off guard.
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