I am, by nature, a Do-It-Yourself type of girl. I like to put together my daughter’s toys, paint walls, cut hedges, and trim my hair. The problem is that I’m not very good at it, as several years of photographs with crooked bangs and ugly hedges will attest. But I’ll just keep trying—because it’s what I do.

Even as a gung-ho DIY-er, there are certain areas in which I know I need help. I cannot fix a car, nor can I figure out stocks and bonds. How To Patent An Idea  I can’t fix my slate roof, and my attempts at landscaping have been failures. Sometimes I just need the help of a professional.

As an inventor, I faced a similar dilemma. Do I self-apply for a product patent or do I get professional help? I’m a smart person, I thought; if I can handle TurboTax, certainly I can handle filling out some forms from the Patent Office.

Boy, was I wrong. Here’s the difference between TurboTax and the Patent and Trademark office. The former is a program and has built into it fact and accuracy checkers. When I mess up, TurboTax gentle takes my hand and walks me through the income tax forms until I find and correct my mistake. My forms from the patent office gave me no such assistance.

Why is this a big deal? There are neither “Back” nor “Undo” buttons on these forms. Once you have submitted your information to the Patent Office, you cannot add new material. Did I forget to mention one of the most compelling features of my invention on the form, that little tweak that makes it superior to similar products on the market, the piece that would push the idea over the edge towards a big “APPROVED” stamp from the Office? That’s too bad, because I can’t add it on later.

In fact, if I do not submit the form exactly right, it might be rejected. To fix it, I have to start all over and pay a second filing fee. This costs me time and money and may even allow someone else to register an idea similar to mine before I am able.

All because I think I can cut my own hair.

Be smart. Know what you can do yourself and when you need outside help. There are patent attorneys available to help you with this paperwork. Whether you have a professional look over your work or do the entire job from scratch, it is simply too important, timely, and costly to leave to chance.

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    I am fascinated with anything to do with technology, inventions, and science! =)


    April 2013