June 19, 2023


June 19, 2023

“Van wasn't talking in terms of what was in his best interest as a lawyer, but mine as a client.” –Eric Lee

If you’ve ever had to take your car into the shop, you’ve probably had this feeling:

You’ve got a piece of work that needs doing, but you don’t know whether it’s going to cost you thousands of dollars or is a simple task you can do yourself.

That’s the position Eric Lee found himself in when he had an idea for a product he wanted to patent and bring to market.

He knew how patents generally worked but wasn’t familiar with the costs involved or the parameters of what can and can’t be patented.

He searched online for patent attorneys in the Chicago area and found Ziliak Law.

The firm soon matched him with veteran intellectual property attorney Van Economou. After an initial consultation, Economou went to work examining Lee’s designs and conducting an extensive patent search.

After analyzing the prospects for patent approval and the protections he was seeking, Economou had disappointing news for Lee.

The features of Lee’s product that he considered uniquely appealing to customers could not be patented in a way that would prevent competitors from manufacturing a similar product. The application process would cost somewhere between $5,000 and $7,500 with no guarantee of approval.

Although that money is often a wise investment, in Lee’s case, Economou could not in good conscience advise Lee to move forward with a full patent application that would be within Lee’s business plan and budget.

“Van explained to me the advantages and disadvantages of going down that path,” Lee said. “He was able to make me see that the time and money required would be better spent getting the thing manufactured and marketed.”

“It was funny because at first, I thought: ‘You don't seem very supportive. Maybe I need a different attorney.’ But after we finished the conversation, all I could say was ‘thank you.’ I could see that Van wasn't talking in terms of what was in his best interest as a lawyer, but mine as a client.”

Although Lee decided not to proceed with the work that brought him to the firm, he came away with an education in intellectual property law, thousands of dollars in savings, and an experience that left a trail of trust. If he needs counsel in the future, he said, he’d gladly return to Ziliak Law.

“I really appreciate Van’s honesty. I’ve worked with a lot of attorneys in my previous life, and I can tell you: A lawyer turning down work is not something you see every day.”


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