Avoid the red flags from which conflict arises:

Gray areas, recalcitrance, and surprises.

Scot Fagerland’s business advice

This page is lengthy and detailed, but I encourage my inquiring clients to read it as fully as possible to avoid the red flags of business dealings.

Step 1: Free initial 30-minute consultation

Please book your initial consultation at the appointment calendar. The purpose of this first consultation is to give us a chance to meet and see if we are a good match. Since first impressions matter, I encourage you to visit in person, or at least by videoconference. You will present the basics of your case and ask your top-of-mind questions. I will give you a sense of what to expect. This is not a time for legal services, and I can not always answer all up-front questions in the initial consultation.

If you just need one or two discrete questions answered, you might find what you need on my Patents & Trademarks page. I would also refer you to a forum such as Avvo, Just Answer, Justia, or .

All our discussions are automatically confidential, so by default I don’t sign NDA’s.

Only the FIRST 30 MINUTES OF YOUR VERY FIRST consultation is free.  All subsequent correspondence with me, whether it be a lengthy initial consultation, a subsequent consultation, a phone call, or email, may be billable. See Correspondence below for detailed information.

Step 2: Small case or Starter case

After our consultation, I will email you my recommendations and estimates for a small case or the first 1 – 3 billable hours of a large case, which I call the starter case.

My most common small cases include most provisional patent applications, easy trademark applications, easy patent or trademark Office actions, PCT international patent applications, limited patent / trademark prior art search or analysis, reviewing or drafting simple contracts, simple corporate documents, non-disclosure agreements, and cease-and-desist letters.

A starter case is the entry into a large case (see below). It mostly involves communications so that I can understand your case in detail and figure out how to tackle the large case. You may find that it takes more time and effort than you thought to get a lawyer well-acquainted with your case. You will also find it time well spent. I may give you questionnaires to fill out. After the starter case, I will have a good sense of your issues. We will be able to discuss strategies, options, probabilities, and estimates for your full case.

Patent or trademark analysis is a common small / starter case. It involves issues like prior art, factors affecting approval, infringement, and reviewing your prepared applications. This analysis is optional; we may proceed directly to the patent application if you want to save costs. However, I can only guarantee application results if you have hired me for such starter case review.

I won’t begin your case work without you until you authorize the services in writing. However, for a small / starter case, I do not require a formal contract; you may issue your authorization by email or by working with me in real time (e.g. a consultation or training session). Small / starter case offers are non-negotiable.

Step 3: Large cases

After a starter case, I will write a formal contract to complete the rest of your large case. As a rule, I bill hourly and I will provide you with an estimate. Due to high variations among cases, I can not establish a universal flat-fee schedule for everybody. However, if you prefer, I can establish a fixed cost for your case. It would be set one standard deviation above the expectation for my hourly estimate (or + 20% when it’s simpler). My three most common large cases are below.

Patent applications

  • The average complete utility patent application will cost you $4,000 – 6,000.  This includes legal fees, illustrations, and USPTO filing fees. Please note that this is the average range. Some patents cost more, especially those in high tech or crowded fields.
  • Be wary of firms that offer dirt-cheap patent applications. If it looks too good to be true, it’s probably a trap. The trap here is that patent registration is a two-step process. If you cut costs on the first step, then the best-case scenario is that you’re punting those costs to the second step. More likely, you are filing a bad application that can’t be salvaged later.
  • Many patent inquiries do not lead to complete applications. Therefore, I will usually perform and bill them in smaller stages so you don’t have to commit to the full cost before knowing your prospects. (See my Patent Time & Cost Estimates document for more detail).
  • Some inventions are best broken into two or more patents. For instance, if you have invented a wagon with improved brakes and an improved steering handle, the brakes and handle should probably each constitute their own patent. This is something to discuss after your starter case.
  • A design patent costs about half as much as a utility patent.
  • Your total lifetime cost will be about twice the cost of your initial application, spread out over a decade.

Trademark applications

  • A proper trademark application will cost $1,000 – 2,000 on average, including prior analysis in the starter case. There are many variables and factors that clients are usually not aware of; I will advise you in my starter case.
  • Be wary of firms that offer dirt-cheap trademark applications. If it looks too good to be true, it’s probably a trap. The trap here is that trademark registration is a two-step process. If you cut costs on the first step, then the best-case scenario is that you’re punting them to the second step. More likely, you are filing a bad application that can’t be salvaged later.
  • You will pay renewal fees every 5 – 10 years.

Business & contract services

  • I can usually help properly set up a new corporation or LLC for about $1,500 +/- $500. This includes
    • analysis of which kind of entity to form
    • name availability and other considerations
    • state filing requirements
    • formalities such as bylaws or operating agreements and corporate meeting minutes
    • acquisition of an EIN and / or S-corp status
    • local business license / permit if necessary
    • registration of fictitious business names

Rates as of 6/05/23

Professional services

  • The base rate is $300 / hr without pre-payment or credit card pre-authorization.  Maximum three hours service will be provided before payment is due.
  • The reward rate is $250 / hr, and you can earn this by staying ahead of billing in any of the following ways.
    1. Leaving your credit card information on file (most clients and I prefer this option). The credit card must not be expiring while service is in progress. Credit card numbers are vaulted in a PCI-DSS-compliant encrypted system. This option eliminates the need for a prepayment, other than a $5 confirmation deposit. It requires the two forms found below under Billing Procedure.
    2. Small / starter case: Prepaying $1,000.
    3. Large case: Prepaying the contractual flat or expected legal fee + $1,000. The balance (including third-party fees) will be due after completion and before delivery of the work product.
  • I cost about half as much as prestigious firms and twice as much as paralegal / inventor-support services. Since I am neither an industry leader nor a price leader, I rely on excellent performance, customer satisfaction, and positive reviews to get business!
  • Unless contracted otherwise, I bill all of my time hourly, rounded to the 1/10 hr. 
  • I will only be comfortable working with you if you are comfortable with my legal fees. If the cost of my services will be stressful for you, you will do us both a favor by seeking out alternative resources for low-income clients.

Secretarial and Administrative Services

I am the only person in the office, i.e. the secretary and business manager as well as the attorney. I bill “secretarial services” at $70 / hr rounded to the 1/10 hr. This includes tasks that do not require the skills or a license necessary to practice law or other professional services, such as:

  • Addressing your questions about scheduling or billing
  • Mailings
  • Managing your docket and case files, including annual reminders and the initial handling of emails from the USPTO or other government offices related to your case (which you will generally authorize contractually).
  • Transit


Billing for correspondence depends largely on who initiates it and for what purpose.

Client-initiated correspondence

Most of my billing disputes with past clients have been over “micro-billing”, especially emails. A large part of my workday involves messages from clients to address issues that are not necessary for me to complete contracted case work. There is a prevailing sense among clients that this correspondence should be free or unlimited, which is not fair or reasonable. On the other hand, some non-billable correspondence is necessary to procure and sustain business, and I wish to avoid future recurrences of “$40 email shockers”, which are unpleasant for both parties. My updated policy is intended to be a carefully crafted balance. Billing will largely depend on who initiates the call, and why.

By calling or emailing me, you authorize me to take the time to process your message and formulate a meaningful response. Such correspondence is billable as secretarial or professional services, as appropriate, rounded to the 0.1 hr. This is fair because you are asking me to take my time to provide you with valuable information. Such correspondence is outside the realm of quoted estimates.

I grant a reasonable minimum allowance of 0.3 hr / week. That is, the first 0.3 hr of my responses to the calls or emails that you initiate each week (Mon – Sun) is exempt from billing. This allowance applies to all clients and serious inquirers, active or inactive. The allowance is doubled to 0.6 hr (up to 0.3 professional + 0.3 secretarial) for all clients who qualify for the reward rate. I reserve the right to disregard correspondence from unretained inquirers who seem to be seeking ongoing free advice rather than legitimate services.

Your calls and emails requesting legal answers, advice, or services are billed at the professional rate. This includes questions such as, “Which options shall we pursue?” or “Someone is infringing my patent” because such questions require an attorney’s skills and experience. If a proper response would exceed your correspondence allowance, I will likely respond with an estimate for your authorization before continuing.

Your calls and emails about administrative questions, instructions for your case, etc. are billed at the secretarial rate. This includes questions such as, “What are the cost and time estimates?” or “can you email me that form?” because these are questions that an assistant could answer if I had one.

Contract negotiations for large matters (more than $1,000) are not billed. This includes questions such as, “Could you include a prior art search?” “Could I make this payment in two installments?” or “We really need this by August 5; please let us know how you could expedite it.”

Correspondence initiated by me or others

During the course of case work, I will occasionally need to initiate correspondence with you, whether to inform you of something or ask you for information. This chain of correspondence is fully billable, but it is within the realm of a quoted estimate. Therefore, I will not make such a query until the case is actively authorized. Contracts for cases that involve long-term management, including patent, trademark, and corporate applications, will include long-term management clauses to authorize such services in the years following our filing.

My handling of messages originating with third parties (like the USPTO or Secretary of State) is also billable. I will keep the initial intake to a minimum before seeking your authorization to take further action.

Billing Procedure

I bill weekly rather than monthly. This helps us to avoid large balances and to isolate and resolve any billing issues quickly. My preferred first step is to vault your credit card information. This system will qualify you for my reward rate ($50 / hr discount from the base rate) and double your weekly correspondence allowance from 0.3 to 0.6 hours. To initiate this procedure, I must have your credit card information and authorization. You may download those forms here:

  • I only bill you for services that you have authorized in writing. For small cases (up to 5 hours), this authorization may be an email, including any emails from you that require a response (micro-cases; see Correspondence above). Large cases must be authorized with a formal contract.
  • I regard each week of services as an “invoice”. Each day is represented as a line item on the invoice, with a description of services. I record all services and charges in QuickBooks Online.
  • Each Monday, I email last week’s QuickBooks invoice to present you with the charges. You will have a minimum of three days to review it and ask any questions.
  • If I have your credit card information vaulted, I will then charge your card for the most recent invoice. My Square system will send you a receipt. In practice, this usually happens the following Monday. Please remember it’s coming, and don’t confuse it with a separate invoice!
  • In the event that your credit card expires or is declined, I will notify you and give you a week to provide payment or a new card. After a week, any unpaid balance will revert to the base rate. If your credit card fails twice within a year, or thrice in any time period, then all subsequent services must be pre-paid. The default rate will be the base rate until you make the prepayments described above in Professional Services.
  • If you must finance charges, we can spread out your credit card payments over time for a finance fee of 2% / month (not past your credit card expiration).

Pro bono (free!) services

I occasionally get a request for services that I have not practiced before, but that I am interested in learning. I offer such services for free, in exchange for the valuable learning experience. Current examples include wills and trusts, LLC tax returns, non-profit corporations, franchise agreements, EB5 investor visas, trade dress, and international (Madrid protocol) trademark applications. I will seek feedback from an experienced attorney (which you or I can identify) but I would like to stay involved and handle as much of the project as possible.

Policies & Notes

The “second chance” rule. If your credit / debit card is declined, I will give you a week to address the failure. Without resolution, your unpaid balance will revert to the base rate. If your card fails twice within a year, or three times in any span of time, all subsequent payments must be pre-paid.

I charge a 25% “expedite” fee to prioritize your case over others or to meet deadlines less than a month away. I can’t guarantee meeting deadlines less than two weeks away.

Estimates / flat fees:  Many matters are close-ended in the sense that they have a particular end goal, yet open-ended in that every case is different and it is difficult to predict the exact charges.  When I assess each matter, I will provide you with an estimated range of likely hours, in the form of a mean and standard deviation. This is not a cap, flat fee, or guarantee unless contracted so.

If you prefer a flat fee for a project exceeding $1,000, it will be set one standard deviation above the mean.  Example:  A client requests an operating agreement, and I provide a likely estimate of $900 +/- $300. This means that, billed hourly, the case is most likely to cost $600 – 1,200. There is a chance that it could cost less or more depending on the circumstances of the case.  If the client prefers a flat fee, I would quote it at $1,200.  This would guarantee full and thorough completion of the project as contracted, however long it takes me.

Most patent & trademark prior art analysis is inherently open-ended (we could theoretically search forever). Therefore, it is more common to set a firm flat budget on such a case.

Other payment options are flexible and negotiable upon request for cases over $1,000 (3.3 billable hours).

I do not offer written contracts or fee negotiations for projects under $1,000. However, I will still seek your written authorization for small projects via email.

Resources for low-income clients

My rates and services are optimized to serve mid-to-high-income individuals and small businesses. If you are a low-income inquirer, I appreciate the position you are in, but I am most likely not the right match for you. I would recommend the following sources:

Legal Zoom. There are many online services for inventors. Most of them are fly-by-night operations. Legal Zoom is the only one I can think of with a solid reputation. They offer flat-rate packages for trademarks and patents. Their services have fixed limits to them (three prior art references, five pages, ten claims, etc.) and they most likely do not read and analyze material as deeply as I do. But these are probably the lowest rates you’ll find for an honest job.

The USPTO’s legal assistance program. In the America Invents Act of 2011, Congress and the Obama administration created programs to help people of limited means get help with trademark and patent filings. Most of my clients are in California. For you, the local USPTO affiliates are

  • For patents only: California Lawyers for the Arts. As of 2020, the qualifying income requirement is $37,000 or below.
  • For patents or trademarks: Law School clinics. On this page, you will find a long list of law schools that offer free help from law students under the supervision of an attorney. There are several in California and many others that accept applications nationwide.

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