We are happy to share some information about us. The Law Office of Smith & Hopen concentrates its practice exclusively on intellectual property matters. This includes patents, trademarks, copyrights and related litigation. Our attorneys and patent agents have been recognized as leading practitioners in the area of high-technology intellectual property development. Some of the world’s most esteemed publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Smart Business for the New Economy, Capital District Business Review, and The Business Journal cite our attorneys for their authority on patent, trademark and copyright protection. Our firm is AV® rated by Martindale-Hubbell.
Protecting the Client:
Every attorney at the firm is a member of both a state bar association and registered with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). Both the state bars and the USPTO have strict requirements for client confidentiality and duty of care. Our attorneys have attended years of highly competitive professional schools, passed the state bar and the USPTO registration examinations. Our firm has represented hundreds of clients over the years in the profession. State bars and the USPTO have rules and guidelines that strongly protect client rights.
Make no mistake about it. There are unscrupulous attorneys whose actions do a disservice to the profession. Before you make any decision about hiring an attorney, ask other attorneys you might know.
- Who has a good reputation in the legal community?
- Which firm represents major clients and consistently achieves successful outcomes ?
- Which firm has the experience to find a solution in a situation that stumps other firms?
- For intellectual property attorneys, you can look up which patents and trademarks issue from their firm. From this information you can glean valuable insight. For example, does the firm represent reputable clients? Does the firm handle a broad spectrum of technologies or only focuses on a narrow niche? Furthermore, how many patents or trademarks has the firm handled?
No iron-clad contract can guarantee excellent representation. It takes years of attentive service, personal attention and excellent outcomes to build a reputation in the legal community. Go with the firm with the best reputation.
Building a Relationship
We are privileged to work in an area of law that rewards innovation and success. However, intellectual property matters are complicated and can be intimidating for first-time clients. We are selective with the clients we represent because our goal is a long-term relationship. Consequently, the more success we can bring to a client the better off we are together. No other area of law affords the same type of relationship and we are honored to play a part in our clients’ financial and scientific achievements.
Make sure you ask these 10 questions before hiring a patent attorney to protect your intellectual property. Selecting a firm to handle your intellectual property may be the make-or-break decision in your business endeavor. Don’t go about it causally. Ask serious, pertinent questions about the qualifications, experience and reputation of the firm you are going to use.
- Exclusively patent and trademark? Is your practice exclusively focused on Intellectual Property? YES. We limit our practice exclusively to Intellectual Property…nothing else. Every single practitioner is registered with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
- AV-rating? Is the Firm AV-Rated with Martindale-Hubble? YES. This is the highest possible rating. According to Marindale-Hubble, “AV Preeminent is a significant rating accomplishment- a testament to the fact that a lawyer’s peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence.”
- Extranet access? Do you provide extranet access? YES. Clients have 256 bit encrypted access to all matters. 24/7 access to billing, deadlines and case progress. We maintain full transparency to clients. To our knowledge, we are the only intellectual property firm that offers this level of convenience to clients.
- Representative clients? Do you represent both small and large business entities? YES – Some of our clients include USF, UCF, University of Colorado, FAMU, Florida Poly, UNF, Moffitt Cancer Center. Our firm is subject to an extensive vetting process when large clients evaluate our credentials. We also represent a large number small businesses making innovations in their own area of expertise.
- Patents and trademarks found valid in litigation? Do your patents and trademarks survive litigation challenges? Our goal is to draft patent and trademark applications in an effort to avoid subsequent challenges and litigation. While no attorney can ethically guarantee an outcome, our attorneys strive to anticipate challenges to validity and develop strategies to prevent invalidation.
- Technical expertise for patents? Do you have technical depth to understand the technology? YES – All Disciplines. Mechanical; Electrical; Software; Chemical; Life Science. Our group of patent practitioners constitutes one of the largest pure-IP practices in the South East United States. See our practice summary publication for specific technology backgrounds.
- Considered experts in intellectual property? Are you considered experts in Intellectual Property? YES – most partners are Board Certified in Intellectual Property by the Florida Bar (2 of only 140 nationally). This is the highest level of acknowledged proficiency in patent, trademark and copyright practice.
- Teaching experience in intellectual property? Do you have teaching experience? YES – University of Florida College of Law; University of South Florida; Florida Bar; U.S. Dept. of Defense; Moffitt Cancer Center; Florida A&M; Florida State U.; Tampa Bay Technology Forum; U. of Central Florida.
- International Patent Filings? Do you practice internationally? YES – foreign law firms select our practice for U.S. entry for patent applications originating in Europe, Japan, China and other countries. Our economy is truly a global one and knowledge of foreign rights, importation and competition is essential.
- Value in our patent and trademark practice. Do you provide the highest value? We are a national firm, but because our principal office is located in southwest Florida, we enjoy reasonable fixed and variable overhead business expenses.
Patent cases on contingency introduce some complexities not found in other areas of the law. We are occasionally asked to write a letter, file a patent application, or handle a lawsuit on a contingent fee basis. Our policy is to decline such requests because contingency fee arrangements are usually unfair to the client.
Suppose a client asks us to write a demand letter for $100,000 on a contingency fee basis, telling us to keep a third of the proceeds if the letter results in payment. We could receive a legal fee of $33,333.33 for a letter that would normally cost about $600.00. It makes much more sense for the client to pay the small letter-drafting fee and keep the proceeds.
The same logic applies to the filing of a patent application. To avoid a $10,000.00 legal fee for preparation of a mechanical patent application, for example, a client may propose that we waive the fee and participate in the profits derived from the invention. If the invention meets with commercial success, the client could pay a fee far in excess of $10,000.00.
If the invention is not commercially successful, we have worked for two to three weeks with no revenue, even though our overhead bills never stop coming in. We have no control over whether or not an invention meets with commercial success, because that depends upon the marketing efforts made by the inventor, not upon the quality of the patent application. Consumers don’t purchase products because the patent application for the product is well-written. Being full-time patent attorneys, we can do no more than advise our clients to avoid marketing scams.
A different reasoning applies to lawsuits. Contingency fee arrangements are common in personal injury (PI) cases because the only issue in such cases is damages. The liability is usually clear and most PI law firms will not accept a case on a contingent fee basis if liability is not clear. Thus, the only issue in most PI cases is how large the payment will be, not whether or not there will be a payment. In intellectual property cases, liability is always disputed. An accused infringer will attack the validity of the patent by citing prior art that was not cited by the examiner, and will argue noninfringement as a backup defense. A typical patent infringement suit lasts two or three years and requires the full-time attention of at least one lawyer. No lawyer with an office can stay in business without revenue for such a long period of time. Personal injury cases, on the other hand, are over much quicker and, again, the only issue is the size of the recovery.
In most cases, we are able to quote a flat fee for our services. This removes the uncertainty caused by hourly rates. When a lawyer quotes a fee of $300 to $500 per hour to write a letter or to prepare a patent application, the inventor’s reply is always “Write fast.” Well, that leads to a letter or patent application prepared in a bum’s rush. A well-crafted letter, patent application, or an amendment to a patent application, is best prepared in a relaxed, well thought out manner. A flat fee protects the client from surprises, ensures a thorough preparation of the application, and is, we believe, the only fair alternative to hourly rates and contingency fees.
No attorney should ever send a bill they would not pay themselves. One benefit of hiring an experienced, specialized firm is that we’ve already seen almost every intellectual property scenario. Clients do not get billed for us to learn even moderately complicated issues of patent, trademark or copyright law.
With thousands of patent and trademark prosecutions under our belt, we handle matters efficiently knowing the path to take to achieve the best possible result. The same applies to more complicated proceedings such as Inter Partes Review and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board proceedings. Where we can estimate a flat fee, we provide a written estimate ahead of doing the work. Where the matter is contested, such as a litigation, we bill down to the second with detailed logs of the work we perform to advance the client’s objective. There is no “rounding” up to the next thirty minutes or hour.
Booking a consultation does not automatically create an attorney-client relationship. However, no successful patent attorney will “steal” your invention. In fact, the reality is that inventing is hard work. It takes not just the spark of imagination, but project planning, marketing, capital investment and competition with the status quo. The attorney-client privilege in our profession is exceptionally strong: we are bound by confidentiality by both the state bar and the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Rules of Professional Conduct. The attorney-client privilege is the client’s right and is fiercely protected by ethical attorneys.
When you book a consultation, you might think you will have a long agreement to sign before we get started. We are often asked by clients for a “letter of engagement” prior to discussing an invention, a new branding campaign or other activity. We don’t provide such letters. Why? Simple: we find them a clear conflict of interest.
As attorneys, we can inject terms and conditions into such agreements that dramatically favor the law firm over the client. However, what about our duty to represent our clients’ best interests? These letters of engagements proffered by bar associations and legal practice advisors immediately set the attorney and client in an adversarial relationship. A well-informed client would not sign such agreement without legal review. So, would the client have to hire Firm B to review an engagement letter for Firm A? Would Firm B also have a letter of engagement to sign prior to the review? The result is nonsensical.