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I have two patents (and 2 pending), with many I'd argue well written claims, that cost nothing more than the PTO fees and my or my eng partner's time (and appreciation for knowing how to work with a system - the PTO seems to like us for that and have said so).

First off, congrats on the patents. I know I'm proud of mine. It takes quite a bit of work to get them.

Here is where I caution people - as our lawyers have told us, there are various levels of how claims can be constructed that determine how effective the patent is. In general, our lawyers write the claims to be as broad as possible, covering as many possible iterations and derivatives as possible. As such, they often have to go through a second round of modifications before the USPTO will approve them, but it affords us the maximum protection for our ideas.

Part of my job is to also keep up on what our competitors are doing with their patents. As such, I run a set of search strings to find patents in my field, and comb through them to see what is being done out there. Occasionally, I find something of interest, and then we discuss that idea internally. If it is something that we wish we had invented, we then sit around and brainstorm how to design something similar that would not infringe on the existing patent. That task is made much easier or much more difficult based on the language used and how broad the patent is. And that is the reason we use patent attorneys for writing our patents. Sure, it costs more and takes a bit longer, but it's worth it in the end.

In any case, congrats and good luck with your pending apps.

(6 US patents, 13 pending)
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