One of the first questions that inventors ask is how much it costs to apply for a patent. This is an important question to ask when trying to budget for a new venture, but it’s a tricky process.

Patent: What Is it?

A patent prohibits others from using, creating, or selling your invention. Thus, it is a grant of a property right to the owner. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues patents in the United States.

Do You Have a Great Idea?

If you have a great idea, don’t ignore it! But, keep in mind that ideas themselves cannot be patented. The invention itself, however, can be patented. There are some basic guidelines you can follow to ensure that your invention is introduced to the public while also being protected from others who may want to use or sell it without your permission.

Don’t be afraid of the patent process. While it can be rather time-consuming, costly, and complex, if you feel confident that your invention will succeed, you should accept the challenge.

How Much Does It Cost?

Trying to ascertain the costs associated with patenting an invention in the United States can be rather difficult, as it depends on the technology involved. It is important to understand that the act of patenting an invention can bring challenges. Your invention must be unique, and due to the strict measures imposed by the United States Supreme Court, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, as well as other regulations imposed from the USPTO, it can be difficult to have an invention patented. However, with that being said, it is easier to obtain a patent today than it was five to 10 years ago. Although it may be easier, it is certainly not cheaper.

In order to better understand the costs associated with patenting your invention, you should consider doing the following:

  • Discuss with a patent attorney, or even analyze for yourself, the costs associated with preparing and filing a patent application with the USPTO.
  • Consider the type of invention you have. How complex is it? If it’s complex, the process may be costlier and more time-consuming. If you have a simple invention, however, the patent review may not take as long and thus will be cheaper.
  • If you are going to receive a patent, then you will be required to fill out a nonprovisional patent application.
  • Government filing fees of $730 are the minimum costs associated with patent applications for small entities.
  • The fees associated with micro entities are generally at least $400.
  • Professional drawings, which are highly recommended, will typically add another $300-$500, depending on the complexity of the drawing.
  • Don’t forget—if you hire an attorney to assist you in the application process, you’ll be responsible for legal fees, which won’t come cheap with patent applications. The more complex your invention is, the higher the legal fees will be.
  • You’ll want your application to be as strong as it can be in order to be successful in your patenting your invention. Therefore, taking the time to hire an attorney and a professional to draw your invention on paper (for the patent examiner to review so he or she can better understand your invention and the economic purpose of it) is important.
  • Generally, individual investors may want to find ways to cut corners financially. However, it is important to note that a patent application is not straightforward. There are many intricacies involved in the application, and a strong application usually involves an attorney’s assistance.

Doing It Yourself

While it is advisable to hire a patent attorney to assist you throughout the process, you might choose to go it alone. Filing a patent on your own will cost a lot less, but be aware that it takes a lot of time. It may take even more time for you as you lack the professional knowledge. So, if you do choose to do it on your own, keep in mind the following:

  • Conduct your own patent search.
  • In fact, Google allows you to search for current patents and will provide you with academic papers and other related websites to find what other inventors, if any, have an invention similar to yours.
  • You may even want to reach out to others who operate in the same field as you to see if they patented their inventions and how they went about the process. You can reach out to these individuals through social networks.
  • Find a patent that is related to your application, using it as a template for yours.
  • Create or draft your own drawings.

Other Kinds of Patents

If you are not ready to take on the patent process but still want to protect your invention, then you can apply for other types of patents as follows:

1. Utility Patent

Inventors can submit a draft patent application and subsequently convert it into a utility application. Generally, it takes just about a year to complete. More specifically, utility patents protect specific types of things, such as machines, systems, or methods.

The cost of filing a utility application generally ranges between $8,000-$9,000. However, more complex claims (i.e. chemical, biotechnology) can cost up to roughly $16,000. Mechanical patent applications could be around $12,000. Complex electrical/computer patents could cost up to $14,000. Keep in mind that after the application is filed, it may require numerous amendments to perfect the application, which costs additional fees each time, ranging from $2,200 to $3,500, depending on the complexity and type of invention.

2. Design Patent

Such a patent protects only aesthetic design choices, including the design of manufactured products, the shape of various medical devices, and the layout of user interfaces. Someone can have both a utility and design patent. For example, someone who invents a machine to be used to make a specific product, having designed that machine in a specific way, can apply for a utility patent for the piece of machinery itself and a design patent for the design of the machine. Notably, the review for a design or utility patent is much shorter and much less expensive.

3. Provisional Patent Application

However, instead of utility patent, a provisional patent application or even a trademark may be better suited for your invention. There are two tools for inventors that aren’t too costly. A provisional patent application is one that is filed with the USPTO and establishes an early filing date but doesn’t equate to a full patent application unless and until the applicant files a non-provisional patent application within the 12 months subsequent to filing the non-provisional patent. A provisional patent application is both less detailed and less costly.

Immediately after you file your provisional patent application, you can indicate that your invention is patent pending on any prototype. During this time period, you can also still file a utility or design patent. But, you have 12 months to develop your product even further and turn your non-provisional patent application into a formal provisional patent application.

There are two things to be mindful of when filling out a provisional patent application, which include:

  1. Avoid using restrictive language in the description of your invention, i.e. “essential”, “necessary”, etc.
  2. Be broad (while also being precise) in your description

4. Trademark

Another route for inventors to go down is to have an invention trademarked.

Each and every product invented has a specific name. Once you begin using the name with customers, the invention will become synonymous with its name.

Therefore, you should trademark the name of your invention.

If you need help applying for a patent, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.