What Is the Cost to Get a U.S. Patent?

How much does it cost to get a U.S. patent? The cost to get a U.S. patent varies on many different factors, and there are many ways you can get a patent on a budget without compromising the end product. However, there are some basic guidelines inventors can use to plan their budgets. Some of the areas that can cause the costs to vary from invention to invention are:

  • What the invention is and design complexity
  • Technology involved
  • Attorney fees
  • The invention's marketability
  • Geographic location
  • Patent details

While obtaining a patent is easier than it was 5 to 10 years ago, it is still a process that can be demanding — both in time involved and the costs associated. And, in some ways, it is even more difficult than ever to create the required documents and claims sets required by the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

This is a process you shouldn't go into without researching as much as you can and working with a knowledgeable patent attorney.

Basic Information About the Patent Process

When getting started with the patent process, estimating the cost of U.S. patents is not an easy task. This is due to the type of technology involved with your invention.

Before getting started, it is recommended that you understand the U.S. Patent Office fees, as well as the fees for a patent attorney.

An inventor has the option of filing a patent application in two ways: on their own, which is the least expensive, or filing an application with the patent office.

There are two factors that can affect how much is spent on a patent application. The first is what plans you have for the patent, and the second is if there are viable market opportunities, in which case it's possible to spend more to make sure you've covered all the bases involving the invention. By doing so results in a strong patent.

When filing a patent application on your own, there are no attorney fees involved, only those required fees that must be paid to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

If you choose to write your own patent and file it, have a patent attorney or other patent registered agent review it.

It is recommended that when filing a nonprovisional patent application that the inventor use the services of a patent attorney or patent agent.

A patent attorney pays and maintains malpractice insurance for a reason. Keep this in mind when choosing to work without professional guidance.

Domestic patents can cost $10,000 or more. International patents are the most expensive, with costs of $100,000 or more.

Using a basic utility patent as an example, the filing fee can be $330 to file, plus $540 search fee, $220 examination fee, plus another $980 for maintenance fees for the patent to go into effect after three years.

Types of Patents

  • Provisional patents: This type protects the rights of your invention for one year, allowing the inventor more time for research and tweaking the design.
  • Nonprovisional patents: Follows the one-year provisional patent to make it official.
  • Utility patents: Protect certain types of things such as systems, machines, or methods.
  • Design patents: Protect the way things look.

Filling Out a Patent Application

When filling out the application, it's important to be as thorough as possible. Several things to do include:

  • Make sure the application meets the written description requirements set forth in 35 U.S.C. 112. This includes the components and operational features of the invention.
  • Avoid any restrictive words or phrases, such as "necessary" or "must."
  • Descriptions should be accurate, yet broad enough to include cover the feature.

Do You Have a New Invention Idea?

In order to patent an original idea, you need to first make sure you have come up with something unique. The law is very complex in determining if an idea is unique.

The majority of inventions are typically in the range of being a simple to a minimally complex idea; however, most technology-based inventions are fairly complex in design. Software inventions are typically highly complex, and the courts require a large amount of technical detail in the patent application to obtain and keep a software patent.

One way to save money is to conduct your own patent search. Tools, such as Google, allow you to search for patents and websites to find what other inventors and companies are working on. Social media also allows you to contact others in the same technical field and see what they are up to. However, using an experienced attorney to conduct the patent research for you may get more refined results and could end up saving you more money down the road.

Where Do I Start?

Once you've determined you have a new idea, one of the first steps is to consider filing a nonprovisional patent application. If you are not ready to fully invest in a patent but want to protect your invention, you can file a nonprovisional patent. You can submit a draft patent application and convert it to a full utility patent application within a year.

A nonprovisional patent application will never convert to a patent unless further action is taken and you file a utility patent. A nonprovisional patent application can be viewed as a placeholder. Once you file a nonprovisional patent application, you have the legal right to write "patent pending" on your prototype and show it to whomever you wish. A nonprovisional patent gives you one year to further develop your product and obtain market data before making the final decision on whether to file a utility patent application.

Again, estimating the cost of a nonprovisional patent application is difficult without knowing all of the factors of the invention. However, nonprovisional patent applications have fewer formalities, so they are typically less expensive to draft. The utility patent application could later be used to fix and refine the application. But, remember, the nonprovisional patent still has to have a great level of detail to prove you have fully thought out the invention and that the invention works.

Although a nonprovisional patent application is a fraction of the cost of a utility patent application, it is not actually a patent. For more information on a nonprovisional patent, click here.

How Much Does It Cost to Patent an Idea?

The fee to file the patent application is just a few hundred dollars and can be half as much for small entities like a small business. It could be as low as a quarter of that amount for an individual investor.

The cost of the patent doesn't typically come from the cost to apply for the patent, but the fees to prepare a well-crafted application. These costs usually come in the form of work done by a patent attorney.

Additionally, the cost to apply for a patent is only part of the total patent fees you'll incur. You must also consider other fees down the road, like revising the application, potential prosecuting and protection of the patent, and maintaining the patent.

The process for filing a patent can be very expensive, so small businesses should be very selective about which ideas and inventions they file for. Utility patent applications can cost thousands of dollars. Less complex inventions may cost a few thousand, while intricate and detailed inventions may cost tens of thousands of dollars. For example, a biotech company patent filing could cost up to $20,000.

The cost of a patent application also depends on the market opportunities of the product. If an invention has a strong market potential, the inventor will want to get the best possible patent protection possible. The cost can also vary on the complexity of the invention or the intended market.

Here are a few examples to help explain the potential costs you may incur. These examples assume that a high-quality application with solid patent protection is being filed.

Patent filed for electronic products for a consumer:

  • Patent search with attorney opinion = $1,750
  • Provisional patent application = $2,500
  • Filing fee = $130
  • Nonprovisional patent application = $8,500
  • Filing fee for nonprovisional patent application = $800
  • Professional illustrations for nonprovisional patent application = $400
  • Total cost for a nonprovisional patent application = $14,080

Patent filed for a small entity patenting an internet functionality implemented by a computer:

  • Patent search including attorney opinion = $2,000 to $3,000
  • Provisional patent application (filed and prepared) = $6,000
  • Nonprovisional patent application = $10,000 to $12,000
  • Filing fee for nonprovisional patent application = $800 to $1,250
  • Professional illustrations for nonprovisional patent application = $500
  • Total cost for a nonprovisional patent application = $19,300 to $22,750

As you can see, the costs can add up quickly. There are also post-filing fees once the Patent Examiner reviews your application. You should plan for and budget another $5,000 to $7,000 for potential prosecution and issues that are filed to the Patent Office.

And, after carefully researching the potential costs and an initial consultation with an attorney, you may find that the expenses of a patent outweigh the benefits. There are reports that show up to 97 percent of patents generate less revenue than they cost to obtain them.

Do It Yourself

With these high costs, many seek to do some of the patent application process themselves or seek deep-discount providers, many who don't have the experience needed to file patents and end up costing more in the long run.

You can still take a do it yourself approach and file patent applications on your own. Filing patent applications for your own invention costs a lot less, but there is a huge amount of work, and it will lack the benefit of an experienced professional. There are a large number of minor mistakes that could compromise your ability to get a patent for your invention that could be easily caught by a seasoned patent attorney.

You can also draft your own patent application. By finding a patent that is related to your invention, you can use it as a template.

Most good patent lawyers have an hourly rate of $200-$400. Cheaper patent attorneys may bill less. You can have a patent attorney or agent teach you how to write and file your own patent application. In this case, filing your own patent application will save you thousands in attorney fees, but you will still get a good, high-quality patent application.

You Get What You Pay For

As with every aspect in life, you get what you pay for, so be careful cutting corners.

The amount you spend on a patent application will dictate the quality of the end product you get. For example, you could find an attorney to write a patent application for a low price; however, a cheaper patent would not be nearly as strong as a patent application that costs $20,000 or more.

For companies looking to obtain patent protection for intellectual property, it will be even more important to have a well-developed patent application, as they'll need a much stronger foundation for their application in order to obtain the broad patent protection they need to attract potential investors. And, without the funding, the product may never make it.

It's not unheard of to see companies in the biotechnology and software sectors that have few tangible assets to pay 1 to 2 times the average amounts to file a strong enough patent application.

Considerations Before Filing for a Patent

While you may have a fantastic invention and the potential of obtaining a patent, market research and communicating with people about your invention is vital.

A manufacturer or a retail buyer wants to see the product before they are willing to commit to a deal or contract.

Keep in mind that once an invention becomes public knowledge, there is the possibility of losing the rights to an international patent.

In many instances, an inventor will immediately file for a utility patent application. By doing so, the inventor has addressed issues that may arise and let people know the invention is in patent pending status.

There are drawbacks to filing for a patent too early. These include:

  • Filing for utility patents and applications are expensive.
  • When an invention is in its early stages, designs, methods, etc. are still evolving.
  • Filing for a patent too early can result in it not reflecting the inventions most current updates to its design.
  • An investment has been made in obtaining a patent before the inventor has thoroughly conducted market research to validate whether his or her invention is a marketable product.

To avoid the cost of filing for a utility patent before doing market research, it is recommended that the inventor file a provisional patent application. He or she should also file applications for a trademark, logo, or product name for the invention.

If you need help exploring the potential costs of 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 Google, Strip, and Airbnb.