Can an Out-of-State Patent Attorney Represent Me?

Securing a patent for an innovative idea involves maneuvering through a complex, multifaceted process. And having the right guide—patent legal counsel—is an essential part of the process.

A common misconception is that a party hoping to secure a patent must turn to a local attorney for help. This belief, while understandable considering that many legal matters require local expertise and licensing, overlooks the dynamics of how things work with patent law.

The truth is, in the digital age, the geographical location of your patent attorney matters less than their expertise, experience, and ability to navigate the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (“USPTO”) requirements.

Understanding Legal Representation at the USPTO

When it comes to securing a patent, the role of registered patent attorneys is pivotal. Unlike the localized nuances of general legal practices, such as commercial litigation or employment law, patent law operates under a unified federal legal framework, overseen by the USPTO. This means that any attorney registered to practice before the USPTO can represent inventors nationwide, regardless of their physical location.

Becoming a registered patent attorney isn’t a simple feat. It requires specific qualifications that are vetted by the USPTO. Candidates must pass the Patent Bar Exam (a notoriously difficult test), and have a background in science or engineering. This helps ensure that registered patent attorneys have not only a deep understanding of patent law, but also the technical grounding necessary to comprehend the complexities of the invention for which a patent is sought.

This combination of legal acumen and technical expertise positions registered patent attorneys as specialized guides through the patent application process. Accordingly, when selecting a patent attorney, their registration status with the USPTO is a necessity, ensuring they possess the expertise necessary to represent your interests.

Dispelling Myths about Local Patent Representation

The belief that effective patent representation requires a local attorney is a myth rooted in traditional views of legal counsel, and the ways clients typically hire attorneys. However, when it comes to patent law, harboring this belief often limits inventors’ access to the best possible expertise. The digital age has transformed how we communicate and collaborate, making physical proximity to a service provider, such as a patent attorney, less critical than ever. In the specialized field of patent law, where the expertise of a registered patent attorney is paramount, regardless of their geographic location, this shift is particularly relevant.

One of the biggest advantages of looking beyond local options is the potential for cost savings—often referred to as “geographic arbitrage.” The fees charged by patent attorneys can vary significantly depending on their location, often reflecting the cost of living in their area. Attorneys working at big firms in metropolitan areas with higher living costs typically charge more—much more—than those in regions where the cost of living is lower. For someone like myself, who practices patent law in Lansing, Michigan, it can be shocking to see what some patent lawyers practicing in larger markets charge. Living in a lower cost of living area, allows me to charge much more reasonable rates in comparison to large markets like Chicago or D.C.

This discrepancy provides an opportunity for inventors and businesses to engage highly qualified legal representation at a more budget-friendly rate without compromising on the quality of service or expertise. By expanding the search for a patent attorney nationwide, clients can leverage these geographical cost differences to their advantage.

Moreover, the specialized nature of patent law means that finding the best match for your specific technological or industrial sector is crucial. Limiting your search to local attorneys could mean missing out on working with a professional who not only understands the intricacies of your invention but also has a proven track record of success with similar patents. The goal is to secure the most competent and effective representation for your patent application, ensuring it stands the best chance of approval by the USPTO.

Criteria for Selecting the Right Patent Attorney

Selecting a competent and qualified patent attorney is a critical step toward securing your intellectual property rights. The process can be difficult, but by focusing on a few key criteria, you can ensure that you’re making an informed decision.

    • USPTO Registration: Confirm the attorney is registered to practice before the USPTO.
    • Technical Expertise: Look for experience in your specific field of invention. An attorney with a relevant technical background may understand the technology of your invention quicker.
    • Responsiveness: The attorney should be accessible for questions and updates, and proactively keep you apprised as to the status of your matter.
    • Collaborative Approach: Seek an attorney who shows genuine interest in understanding your invention and business goals. A collaborative attorney-client relationship fosters a stronger patent strategy.
    • Value and Cost Savings: Consider the attorney’s fee structure and the potential for cost savings by selecting someone based in a smaller market.


A patent is not just a legal document—it’s an invaluable asset that can significantly impact the success and competitive edge of your innovation. Securing this asset with the right legal counsel is paramount. The lingering myth that effective patent counsel must be local limits your options and potentially the quality of your patent protection. In reality, the right attorney, one who brings a blend of expertise, value, and a deep understanding of your technology, may not be just around the corner. By focusing on important factors beyond proximity, you can secure representation that not only safeguards your patent but also supports your broader business objectives.

If you are interested in discussing your patent questions and legal needs, please contact Fraser Trebilcock registered patent attorney Andrew Martin.

This alert serves as a general summary and does not constitute legal guidance. Please contact us with any specific questions.

Andrew G. Martin is an experienced registered patent attorney with history working in the automotive, electrical, and agricultural industries. He regularly advises startups and small businesses on the patent and trademark prosecution process, assisting clients from start to finish. You can reach him at 517.377.0834 or at

Trademarks and Copyrights: How Knowing the Difference Can Help Your Business

Do you own a business, perhaps with its own logo, tagline, or offering its own unique service? If so, have you thought about whether or not you may need the protection of a trademark or copyright?

Continue reading Trademarks and Copyrights: How Knowing the Difference Can Help Your Business