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.

Free initial consultation

Please book your initial consultation at the appointment calendar. The purpose of this first meeting is to present the basics of your case, see if I can help you, and discuss the terms of working together. This is not a time for legal services. While I can occasionally answer all of a client’s questions in half an hour, this meeting is primarily to determine whether we want to form a business relationship. All discussions are confidential by default, and I don’t sign NDA’s.

Only your VERY FIRST consultation is free.  After that, please be clear that all correspondence with me, whether it be a reserved consultation, a phone call, or email, is billed by the 1/4 hour.

Ballpark figures for most common projects

  • 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.
  • 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).
  • A design patent costs about half as much as a utility patent.
  • Provisional applications are highly variable / individualized. See my Provisional Application Primer for more detail.
  • A simple trademark application will cost you $500 – 1,000. This includes a consultation to determine the best mark and goods / services, name clearance search, image search, trademark strength opinion, and filing, including fees.  More involved applications can be twice as high.
  • Your total lifetime cost will be about twice the cost of your initial application, spread out over a year to a decade.
  • I can usually help properly set up a new corporation or LLC for about $2,000. 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
    • Los Angeles business permit if necessary
    • registration of fictitious business name

Rates as of 6/01/20:  $200 – 250 / hr

  • 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 1/4 hr, with a two-hour minimum. 
  • The base rate is $250 / hr without pre-payment or credit card pre-authorization.  Maximum three hours service will be provided before payment is due.
  • The reward rate is $200 / hr with pre-payment or credit card pre-authorization. I recommend leaving your credit card information on file to obviate a retainer and to ensure the smoothest service. The credit card must not be expiring while service is in progress. Credit card numbers are vaulted in a PCI-DSS-compliant encrypted system. You may alternatively make pre-payment of at least 150% of the quoted estimate for authorized charges.
  • If I have your credit card information vaulted, then I will send you a statement and charge the card weekly.
  • In the event that your credit card expires or declines, we 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 you must finance the charges, we can spread out your credit card payments over time for a finance fee (not past your credit card expiration).
  • I will only be comfortable working with you if you are comfortable with my legal fees. If the cost of my services will be a stress on you, you will do us both a favor by seeking out alternative resources for low-income clients.

Secretarial services are billed at a 50% discount. This includes services that do not require the skills or a license necessary to practice law or patent prosecution, such as:

  • Q&A about scheduling and billing
  • Mailings
  • Managing your docket and case files
  • Transit

Policies & Notes

  • Correspondence with me, including phone calls and emails, is billed by the 1/4 hr.  I grant a free weekly 1/4 hr to clients who leave a deposit or credit card pre-authorization.
    • Your calls and emails requesting legal answers, advice, or services are billed at the full legal rate. This includes questions such as, “Which options shall we pursue?” because such questions require an attorney’s skills and experience.
    • Your calls and emails about administrative questions, instructions for your case, etc. are billed at the secretarial rate for matters under $1,000. This includes questions such as, “What are the cost and time estimates?” or “I have a question about that invoice” 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, “Please send me a flat-fee estimate”, “I can’t afford all that; what lower-cost options can you recommend?” or “We really need this by August 5; please let us know how you could expedite it.”
  • The “second chance” rule. If your credit / debit card is declined, my bookkeeper 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 short-term deadlines, generally less than a month.  (Don’t wait 11 months before completing your non-provisional applications!!!  Grrr … )
  • Estimates / flat fees:  Most of my 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. 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 at 25% above the maximum likely estimate.  Example:  A client requests a utility patent prior art search, and I provide a likely estimate of $500 – 1,000.  The client would prefer a flat fee, which I quote at $1,250.  This would guarantee full and thorough completion of the project as contracted, however long it takes me.
  • Other options:
    • Hourly billing with a cap (which I set at 50% above the maximum quoted estimate)
    • Limited-representation flat fee (you name your price below my quote, and I will reduce my hours to meet it).
  • 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 inquiry, 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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