Getting a patent is a long process (18-40 months) and might be related to significant amount of expenses (from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes even 100 kUSD or more). Both duration and cost considerations are of strategic importance and constitute the key elements of the patenting strategy.
Where to start patenting?
If you are new at the IP (intellectual property) field, it is highly recommended to find and hire an experienced patent drafting professional. It might be a patent attorney or a patent draftsman. The first one is usually working at a patent agency and therefore is more expensive. The second one is typically working on a freelance basis, therefore much more cost effective. Hiring a patent professional it is important to sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement) before disclosing any information related to the idea to be protected.
Immediatelly after signing of the NDA agreement, he patent professional shall propose making a preliminary search. This initial service is featuring two benefits for the author of a novel idea:
1. It will reduce the risk. If the patent professional will find a very close solution already patented, he will recommend not to file an application or to improve the idea further, in order to include more features, which are both novel and having an inventive step.
2. It will facilitate further process. When writing a patent description, the patent draftsman will need to cite relevant prior art inventions as well as indicate the class of the invention to be patented. This benefit is usually worth half the price of a patent search.
National patent offices sometimes provide voluntary searches before filing a patent application. The price of such service on the country so strongly, that it might differ ten times (from EUR150 to EUR 1500).
DIY patenting approach
An inventor who has already been through the patenting process once, could try applying for the patent by himself / herself. Or he could prepare the patent description and give it to a professional for corrections. Some patent attorneys will not agree to negotiate the price because of the draft prepared by the inventor. But some, which are really inventor-friendly, will gladly accept and charge just for time spent for corrections based on some hourly rate.
Legally, it is allowed for the individual inventor or a company to file for patent by themselves. However, later stages of patent extension/validation in other countries and annuity payment requires a lot of effort in finding local attorneys in each country and managing all terms and translations...
Patent professionals tend to manage the information flow with sophisticated database software tools, which make the life much easier and more safe for the inventor (missed time-frames often lead to withdrawal of the patent application). Installation and adaptation of such software often costs around 50 kUSD or more.
In other words, because of the scale and software automation it is both safer and more cost effective to entrust a patent attorney to file and validate the patent.
Where to file?
Patents usually start with priority applications, filed in the homeland of the inventor or patenting company. Some applicants choose to file the priority application in US, mostly because of the first-to-invent system, which is still valid there (not for long). But mostly this is the typical case for ideas, which have been unintentionally disclosed before filing the patent application.
So priority applications are usually filed with national patent authorities. It can be made in the native language, therefore the preparation process is fast (no need of translations). Second reason for national application filing are lower initial fees (comparing to PCT or EP application and search fees). Priority application gives the applicant a period of one year to decide, what to do next. That is really favorable if the applicant still needs to make a market validation of the idea to be protected.
Next steps after the priority application filing are usually related to international (PCT) or regional application filing. In some case, direct extension to countries of interest is chosen. This could happen willing to publish the patents in individual countries and make some enforcement steps.