Sometimes a prospective client calls in need of help prosecuting his or her patent application. Sometimes, the caller informs me that they wrote the patent application themself (a “pro se applicant”), that it has been rejected, and that they now want to consult an attorney. I get about ten of these calls a month. The caller usually wants me to write a response to the Patent Office.
I do responsive work all the time; it is called patent application prosecution. I know pretty well what my average cost is for this kind of work, and I have found that, unfortunately, it often exceeds a pro se applicant’s budget. I usually try to explain the likely cost of such a response, and I try to explain why the costs can be so high. In my experience, patent applications written by inventors require far more work than ones written by attorneys; one response is usually not sufficient – the first response is succeeded by one or more rejections. Unfortunately, there usually aren’t ways to fix all the issues in a pro se application in one blow.
There are a lot of rules and pitfalls that an inventor doesn’t know about and will usually run afoul of when writing an application, and these then have to be fixed if the application has any hope of maturing into a patent. For that reason primarily, I don’t take on clients who have written their own applications anymore. I do caution them, however, that it will be difficult and expensive to get a patent, and so they should make sure that attorney they do hire discloses this to them.
I am fairly direct when I deal with clients. I always try to set expectations from the outset, because I don’t want them to be surprised with an outcome later on. Sometimes, my directness is too blunt, and is interpreted as rudeness. My wife likes to remind me of this. I’m always trying to improve and better appreciate and understand each client and their unique position. While I will always tell clients only the truth, I am reconsidering my manner of delivering that truth.