Overall, I could not disagree more. Don't waste your money? I would rather suggest to not waste your money on business operations or bother to seek investors if you're not going to "waste" money to protect your most valuable assets -- whether or not they are software based (the difficulty in defense of which is altogether irrelevant).
While it is true that you can (and should) do your own prior art search -- preferably in parallel with an experienced counselor -- you're doing yourself a great* disservice by choosing not to involve an IP attorney. As is the case with most things, if you're not an IP attorney, you're not an IP attorney -- by which I mean: you don't do this, so hire someone who does. You cannot simply wing it in this area -- this is not one of the entrepreneur hats which you can don for the first time and have a hope in hell of successfully executing. That is a pipe dream.
You should file a provisional application -- which can be a few pages in white paper form. You should seek the advice of an IP attorney. It is the least expensive approach to securing protection on your invention. The provisional will allow you to operate your business for 1-year before you must formerly prosecute a patent application, which is far more expensive, but worth it if you've proven over the course of a year of practice that your invention has value.
Notably, until you have filed a provisional application, you must not disclose proprietary details on your invention to any* party, including investors, without securing a non-disclosure agreement ( I give my own documents away at ingk.com/resources
-- each battle tested through litigation and drawn by Gunderson Dettmer ).
As it happens, Ernst & Young interviewed Ingk last month on this this topic -- the article is currently on the home page of their entrepreneur site and also available at the above mentioned link -- it is a great introductory guide along with the legal agreements thereunder.
On Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 7:53 PM, Kalimah Priforce <[address removed]>
You can do the search yourself through the USPTO website. Also, there is a fee for when you file a trademark, copyright or patent that the government does that searches through their database. It's part of the fee.
Patent an idea? You don't patent an idea, you patent an invention. You have to first demonstrate with the invention itself or through visual graphs and evidence that it's a unique invention, for it to be seriously considered. Also, if it's software based, just know that software patents are looked down upon by the startup tech community unless you're able to show that what you're inventing is credible. Also, the legal structure involving software patents is increasingly getting harder to protect and process by the government as it's becoming harder to defend in court.
My advice, don't waste your money. Use it to transform your "idea" into a minimal viable product or proof of concept that can be tested and shown to be worth protecting.
-Kalimah Priforce, Qeyno Labs