How much does it cost to buy a patent?

People often wonder how much does it cost to buy a patent in the United States. It is difficult to estimate how much it will cost because there are so many variables. This includes the technology being developed as the primary factor. It can be helpful to review the patent attorney’s fees explained and US patent office fees at their website.

First, it is important to understand the way that obtaining a patent works. Specifically, you have to have something that is unique compared to what has been created previously. That means it is important to have a description that shows that it is unique. The law, however, is only getting more and more complicated because of the work of the Supreme Court of the United States and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. It is becoming more difficult for the United States Patent and Trademark Office to create written descriptions of your work.

It is possible to get a patent, and it is easier in some ways that it was 5 to 10 years ago, but certainly it is not something that can be done inexpensively. With all patent applications, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. In evaluating costs, it can be helpful first to start off with the anticipated cost of preparing and filing a patent trademark application with United States Patent and Trademark Office. 

The invention is obviously the most important consideration. The degree of complexity of your invention and the type of invention is probably the most important thing to consider when trying to establish how much it is going to cost. It is very difficult, if not impossible to give reliable estimates on the cost of filing a non-provisional patent application without doing a great deal about the invention. 

There are three general expenses categories that need to be considered when trying to figure out how much a patent application will cost. They include attorney’s fees, drawing fees, in addition to United States Patent and Trademark Office filing fees. 

The Invent and Patent System TM

How much you spend on your patent application will depend, in part, on your intended use of the patent.  One must also consider whether there are market opportunities that make your product realistic given the current climate. If your research establishes realistic market opportunities, it may be worth spending additional money to ensure the invention is adequately protected by a robust patent. 

As a cautionary tale, consider the following courses of action.  Option one involves paying a lawyer to write a patent for an organizational method you developed. You find an attorney who will do the work cheaply. 

Option two costs considerably more.  Both attorneys charge by the hour.  Why is one so much less expensive?  Probably because they are spending less time and doing less work.  This will likely result in a weaker patent application and weaker patent.  A proper patent includes time and consideration, so as to assure the applicant the patent application includes sufficient disclosure of the relevant technical aspects, as well as describing in explicit detail the options, alternatives, embodiments, and variations that come with the idea sought to be patented. 

Obviously, with more time spent on the application, more money will be spent in attorney’s fees.  However, the goal is to obtain as broad a patent protection as possible.  Without strong patent protection, the product will appear significantly less attractive to investors.  For most inventors, attractiveness is critical to the mission.  Without patent protections, there will be little to no investor funding.  Without proper funding, it is unlikely the product will ever get off the ground. 

With many companies in the biotechnology sector and the software sector, creative companies routinely pay over two times the average cost of a patent application. This is because they are seeking a comprehensive patent that protects their idea fully.  

While every business needs to watch their pennies, cutting corners on patent applications is not the place to do this. For example, some people think skipping a patent search may be a way to effectively save money. This is actually a terrible idea. When one forgoes a patent search, one has no idea about the cost effectiveness of pursing a patent. This is a critical first step, as the patent search provides a pretty good idea of whether the idea is already protected.

To be sure, a patent search is not a 100 percent guarantee. Rather, a patent search provides about an 80 percent confidence level going forward. This is considered in the industry to be a reasonable approach at the early stages of the patent application process. While it is possible to be even more thorough, this could cost thousands, even, by one expert’s estimation, millions of dollars. Obviously, this is cost prohibitive. Nonetheless, the critical first step to any patent application includes a patent search. 

Invention Marketing and Patent Licensing

Inventors can reduce the cost of a patent application by starting with a provisional patent application.  Just as with a nonprovisional patent application, a provisional patent application requires complete disclosure of the invention. However, a provisional patent application requires less formality and it is easier to prepare. Because it is easier to prepare, it will take your lawyer less time, and therefore cost less money than a nonprovisional patent application. Of course, whether one applies for a nonprovisional patent, or a provisional patent application, the attorney will charge by the hour. 

Additionally, regardless of the type of application, complicated inventions will require a greater amount of time paid to details than a patent application that is less complex. Consider an application for a provisional patent on software.  These applications are typically billed by attorneys at a rate of $6,000.  This does not include filing fees and drawing costs. Software applications cost a bit more because the patent applications require so much more information than other types of patents.

Patent application costs are also difficult to estimate up front because part of the cost depends on how many other patents or published applications for patents exist which are similar to or closely related to a given invention. If there are many, many patents and applications in a given area, this is referred to in the industry as a “crowded field.”  As you might imagine, each existing patent and patent application must be reviewed. As lawyers' bill by the hour, 157 patents will take longer to review than 37 patents. 

Do It Yourself

Many inventors attempt to file their own patent applications for their inventions, based on a theory that doing so will cost less than paying a lawyer to do the work. While it is true that one does not write oneself a check for the work, do-it-yourselfers would do well to consider what their time is worth.  There is a cost to filing for a patent, and it includes time spent away from inventing, another job, and family and personal life. Additionally, while inventors may do well at inventing, filing a legal claim is probably not another skill set an inventor has. However, inventors can reduce attorney costs by doing some of the work themselves. For example, an inventor may start with the patent search, and ask a lawyer to assist with other, more complicated legal matters.

Kinds of Patents

There are different kinds of patents for different things. For example, a design patent is issued to protect the specific way a given invention appears. Utility patents describe mechanisms of machines, systems, methods, etc. 

Filing for patent

Often, filing for a trademark or a provisional patent is the best first step. These are low cost approaches which are favored by many in the industry. Patents are essential because investors and retailers won’t purchase a product they haven’t seen, but many inventors don’t want to show their product to people they don’t know or trust, for fear someone may steal the idea. However, the downsides to filing a patent include the cost, the fact most inventions are still in the early stages and will likely evolve more than once, and typically, it is difficult to do actual market research to determine the product’s marketability without talking to potential investors. 

Cautions for the Do-It-Yourselfer

If you are going to write your own provisional patent application, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. First, make sure the application meets the requirements detailed in 35 U.S.C. 112 regarding the enablement requirements and the written descriptions. You must adequately describe the components of your invention, along with their connections. You must also describe the invention’s operation in detail. Applications should avoid language considered restrictive, or even limiting. Such words as “must,” “essential,” “critical,” “necessary,” and “vital” should be avoided. Make sure to be accurate in your descriptions. However, your descriptions should also be broad based.

Understanding Trademark

There are a couple of things to understand about trademark use. First, the principle “first in use, first in right” is applied to trademark law. Trademarks can be registered overseas as well as with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This process is much faster than the process for applying for a patent. It only takes between 10 and 14 months from start to finish, as a general rule.  Once one has successfully registered a U.S trademark, one should use ® when referencing it in writing. This symbol can be created by typing the letter r in parentheses.

Post allowance and issuance fees

Once the patent application is granted by the patent office, applicants are expected to pay an “issue fee.” Payment of the issue fee is required for the patent to be granted to the applicant. For large applicants, patent issue fees are currently $2070. Small entities pay around half that amount, currently $1,285.00. Maintenance fees are also a regular part of the cost of obtaining and maintaining a patent.  Patent maintenance fees are due and payable to the patent office 3.5 years after issuance, 7.5 years after issuance, and 11.5 years after issuance.

Provisional Applications

The purpose of a provisional utility patent application is to establish a filing date for the invention. It also allows the applicant to postpone the larger expense associated for the application of a nonprovisional patent application by up to one in year in time.  Provisional patents are also referred to as “patent pending” status. This gives applicants the time they need to adequately asses the market and consider whether the product would be worth more time and a greater investment, as required by a nonprovisional patent. 

The USPTO does not subject provisional utility patent applications to a thorough review. Rather, the provisional patent application is only a placeholder for the purpose of timing. That having been said, the strength of the patent remains based on the description of the provisional application and the provisional disclosure. Consequently, the proper and complete application of the provisional patent application is essential to a successful patent. 

Nonprovisional Applications

The complexity and scope of nonprovisional utility patent applications varies significantly. Typically, fees for preparing and filing a nonprovisional patent application range from $10,000 to $17,000. This includes preparing and filing the application, communication with the client, etc. It does not include the payment of the issue fee, maintenance fees, etc. Those costs are borne by the patent applicant. Applicant should expect to pay between $25,00 and $30,000 when all is said and done. These costs are typically spread out over the course of three to four years. 

Design Patent Applications

Design patent applications are used to protect the unique appearance of a given product. These applications are necessarily limited in scope. However, in the right situation, a design patent application can be the perfect fit for a given product.

If you are considering 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, Stripe, and Twillo.