The practice of patent prosecution is a very specialized area of law. It is one of only two areas of law where attorneys are allowed to advertise that they “specialize”; the other being admiralty law. In fact, patent law is so complex, it is the ONLY area of law that requires its practitioners to take and pass a separate, federally administered, Bar examination, called the Patent Bar. And there are good reasons for this requirement.
Getting a patent is, generally speaking, not a difficult endeavor-getting a patent that has value, however, requires skill and experience. The value of a patent depends on what is claimed in that patent. If the claims are extremely “narrow,” meaning very specific, the patent’s value is less than if they are very “broad,” or general. For example, a patent claiming a stool with four wooden legs and a wooden seat is too narrow. Anyone could make a stool with a number of legs other than four or from a material other than wood and not infringe your patent because you claimed exactly four legs and wood as the material. On the other hand, claiming “a surface supported by at least one element” would probably be too broad as this claim could read on many existing devices, not necessarily limited to stools. A skilled patent practitioner will take the time to survey what other similar inventions are already in the public domain and structure the claims to differentiate from other inventions, while simultaneously providing you with the broadest claim coverage possible.
Additionally, between case law decisions, the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the United States Code, there are literally thousands of rules and regulations to be intimately aware of and to properly navigate when prosecuting a patent. The great majority of patent applications are initially rejected by the USPTO. A practitioner must stay aware of all rule changes and any changes in case law decisions to successfully overcome the grounds for rejection of the application. This knowledge requires practitioners to frequently read recent case law decisions and rule changes. Patent rights can be, and have been, won or lost on the turn of a single word in the patent application.
Lastly, attorneys are licensed. The sole reason for requiring a license to practice law is for regulatory purposes. If a non-attorney commits an act of deceit, dishonesty, or malpractice, there is no risk that his license might be revoked and his livelihood taken away. This is not so for an attorney. The rules in most states dictate that if an attorney commits an act of dishonesty, even if not pertaining to practicing law, for example selling his own land, or even if in a state other than the one he is licensed in, his license can be revoked. This extraordinary liability will ensure that an attorney always makes your matter a priority and will work his hardest to protect you, your property, and your rights.