San Angelo, TX asked in Copyright, Patents (Intellectual Property) and Trademark for Texas

Q: My friend and I have come up with an idea that we want to market. It is extremely unique.

My friend and I have come up with an idea that we want to market. It is extremely unique. We have been researching for a few days now to make sure there is nothing like it on the market. We were trying to figure out if we need a patent to manufacture the product to sell or if we need a copyright. Also, which ever one we need, can we file the paperwork with the U.S. ourselves or do we need to hire an attorney to file the paperwork?

2 Lawyer Answers
Kevin E. Flynn
Kevin E. Flynn
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Chapel Hill, NC

A: It is not clear what your invention is so my answer is going to be somewhat general.

You asked "can we file the paperwork with the U.S. ourselves"? The answer is yes you can. The USPTO allows inventors for file patent applications without the assistance of patent attorneys.

You asked -- do we need to hire an attorney to file the paperwork? This seems to indicate that you think that the patent attorney is filing a form like a tax form. I suspect that you have not read a patent. It is much more complex than that. It more like a small term paper describing in detail how to make and use your invention and why the differences between your design and the prior art matter. Finally, there are patent claims which are a cross between a technical disclosure and a poem. This is not easy to do.

My suggestion is that you start out doing a bit of searching for patents in the field that you have improved. There are some tips in the PowerPoint Slide set at

It may also be helpful to look at some slides describing how entrepreneurs can protect their intellectual property at .

If this idea is something that you will put a lot of time and money into, then you may want to spend some money with a patent attorney to protect your idea as protecting your idea from copycats is a way to maintain market share and margin for the long haul.

If you found this answer helpful, you may want to look at my answers to other questions about patent law are available at the bottom of my profile page at

Kevin E Flynn

Liliana Di Nola-Baron
Liliana Di Nola-Baron
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Washington, DC

A: You can do the paper filing yourself with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. However, do you know how to prepare a patent application with claims that specifically describe your invention? An attorney may help you with the preparation and advise you about the best strategy. While this may require some investment on your part, it might save you from headaches and from spending more money down the road. Give me a call if you wish to learn more.

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