Among all the con jobs that exist, the patent service scam is one of the most emotionally devastating and unjust. When successful, an illegal patent operation generates continuous rewards for the perpetrators while crushing the spirit of the inventor and depriving him of spoils that are his by right. The less ambitious scammers settle for a small one time payoff and then vanish never to be seen again. The more avaricious con artists strive for continuous payoffs, milking the poor inventor or investor for all they're worth.
So it's a good idea to take the time to vet any company or individual that offers you patent services. It protects you from wannabe criminals and helps secure the profits that you will create with your intellectual property.
Before you even think of paying for patent services, see how far you can go using the following free tools:
Search juggernaut and all-around useful company Google hosts a huge patent search service database (google.com/patents) - This free service allows you to search a whopping seven million patents. The basic search feature alone will save you hundreds of hours and untold thousands of dollars spent trying to find out if your idea has already been patented. And as with the regular search engine, the patent search device has an advanced search feature that allows you to hone in on certain types of inventions. With all the patented inventions in the marketplace, it pays to know whether or not you're duplicating somebody else's invention.
Dig around in the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (uspto.gov) - The official website offers a wealth of information on patents and services. You'll learn about trademark services and products, as well as products and services regarding patents. It will also enlighten you on issues regarding scams and other illegal operations related to patents and general intellectual property. The USPTO is definitely worth a few hours of exploration for anyone considering filing a patent.
If you plan to operate from within the United Kingdom, you may find the Intellectual Property Office useful (ipo.gov.uk) - Aside from the regular patent services, they also have an online resource center that specializes in educating the public about intellectual property-related crimes.
Ask a trusted source. For example, if you suspect that company "Shady Contracts Incorporated" is out to scam you, go to the USPTO website and see if they're listed as a trusted patent service. If they're not on the list, there's a chance that they're running an illegal outfit.
As a general rule, try to use a patent service that has good relations with government agencies. You can find these services fairly easily by beginning your search at government websites.
Another way to help strengthen your defenses against illegal patent services is by looking for patent scam horror stories. A quick search on the internet will yield scary and useful anecdotes that you can learn from. Look for patterns, and if possible get names of individuals and companies. Build your own personal blacklist of people and events to avoid.