Written By: Brandy Miller | April 29, 2016 | No Comments
According to local attorney Larry Miller Sr., he is rarity in terms of his specialization. “I believe that I’m the only one in Berks County doing patent law,” Miller said. Miller shared the greatest pleasure he gets out of his profession. His practice is in West Lawn. “Maybe the biggest reason I enjoy patent law is I’m always at the front edge of the technology,” he said.
Miller is a partner with his son Larry Miller Jr. at Miller Law Group. Miller Sr. has work history that includes a role as in-house counsel for first Sperry New Holland, which became Ford New Holland and is now CNH Industrial, a position he held for 25 years.
“When I left in 2003, I was the chief patent counsel, so I had complete responsibility in charge of patents and trademarks worldwide,” he said. “New Holland had companies in Europe, Brazil and Mexico.” Today, Miller practices patent and trademark law exclusively.
Business Weekly: How do you describe your path that led you to specialize in patent law?
Larry Miller Sr.: My path to patent law started when I was in the Poconos, doing real estate development. I was working as a survey- or and still am. I went to law school, only intending to concentrate on real estate law, because it seemed to be a good ﬁt for me. I didn’t realize there was a period between law school and graduation when I thought I might starve to death during this period, so I saw a com- pany by the name of Sper- ry New Holland that had an opening for a rookie patent lawyer, and I applied and have been one ever since.
BW: What was involved with the learning curve, giv- en patent law wasn’t your intended specialization?
LM: You have to understand that this is 1978, when I started working for New Holland. In those days, you did an apprenticeship in patent law, you didn’t learn it in law school. There are some schools. You don’t really learn how to practice patent law except by doing it. You have to have a scientiﬁc background or degree, in my case a civil engineering degree, to practice patent law. I was 28 years old when I took the patent bar. It’s a lot harder than any state bar exam that I’m aware of. They used to have a pass rate of about 15 per- cent. It is a tough exam.
BW: Within the realm of patent law, do you have a speciﬁc specialization?
LM: There are special ties within the patent world. There are really four different areas: chemical, electrical, mechanical and the fourth one is referred to as business method patents. There are so many different method patent applications ﬁled, they formed a whole new group just to do business method patents. Mostly what I do is mechanical. Occasionally I do a chemical type of application and typically I like to get my daughter, who is also a patent lawyer and has a chemistry background, to help when I do. I have done some software-type and computer type patents. Ninety percent of my stuff is mechanically oriented.
BW: Do you have more individuals or companies coming to you for counsel?
LM: Most of my business comes from companies. I have companies in China, but most of them are in central Pennsylvania. I have a client in Kansas and one in California. Most of the companies are right here in Pennsylvania. Our office is here in Berks, but I live in Lancaster County. At the Miller Law Group, in private practice, people call me up and want to talk about wanting to get a patent. I have many companies that are repeat clients, and I have many people I only see once.
BW: What is the typical cost associated with get- ting a patent?
LM: There are different kinds of patents. There are design patents to protect the aesthetic appearance of a device. I usually charge about $2,000 for those. There is a utility patent, which is how something works or how something is done or a method of doing business or an apparatus. There are combinations of components. I charge a ﬂat fee of $7,500 and, in addition, there are charges for the patent office, about $800, and for drawings, usually about $100 to $150 a sheet. To ﬁle a typical utility patent application would be between $8,500 and $9,000. I have heard, like in Philadelphia, ﬁrms charging $12,000, $15,000 or $20,000 for ﬁling a patent application. We at the Miller Law Group believe that is not necessary.
BW: Is there a memorable invention from recent or past years you can share?
LM: People ask me: How many of your patent applications become manufactured where people make money off of them? The answer is: Not as many as you’d like to think. It excites me when someone has sold some-thing they have patented. It makes me feel good, and that is pretty cool to see. A client of mine in-vented a new form of a filter holder for standing seam roofs called Snap-Z. He is just launching off within the past couple of months to make these. He is all excited and I’m excited for him.
BW: BW: Have there been any major changes within the realm of patents over the course of your long career?
LM: Before 2013, if two people had filed the same invention, the patent office would grant the first person to invent it and it didn’t matter who filed it first. It doesn’t matter who is the first to invent it. Whoever files first, they get the patent. That is very favorable to big companies as opposed to private inventors. Big companies have the big budgets and can file early and often. The biggest change with this new law is you need to file your patent application before you tell people about your invention.
— Interview by: Courtney H. Diener-Stokes, Reading Eagle Correspondent
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