Updated November 27, 2020:

How Much Does It Cost to Patent a Product?

It's important to understand the costs of filing a patent, and why you should consult an attorney for the process. There are two ways to patent an idea. The first is to write and file your own patent, which costs about $900 in fees to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The second way is to hire an attorney or patent agent to write and process the forms for you. The attorney fees typically cost between $5,000 to $10,000.

The most common type of patents are utility patents, and most of the cost comes from attorney fees for preparing the application. Most people find it worth the expense, as the patent application process is detailed and lengthy.

The Cost of Patenting an Idea

To even patent an invention, you must have a unique idea or technology that doesn't overlap with earlier patents. Furthermore, the law keeps getting more complicated as to what makes an invention unique.

The technology of the invention makes a big difference in the final cost of the patent. Other factors include:

  • Attorney fees
  • The invention's marketability
  • What you want to do with the patent
  • Geographical application of the patent

If the patent is, in fact, marketable, you should expect to pay more to file the patent, since you want to make sure the result of the application is a strong patent.

In determining costs, the type of invention and its complexity are the most important considerations. Most inventions from independent inventors are relatively simple to slightly complex. Electronic devices tend to be moderate to relatively complex. Software inventions are usually highly complex and often require a high level of technical detail in the patent application.

In the biotechnology and software sectors, most patent ideas are not tangible. Therefore, start-ups in these industries pay around twice as much to apply for patents for their entire portfolio.

Unfortunately, in all sectors, only 3 percent of patents generate more revenue than the cost to get the patent. This statistic should make people and businesses cautious about what they decide to try to patent.

Non-Provisional Patent Application

These applications are necessary to receive a patent. The attorney fees for a non-provisional patent application can range from $5,000 to upwards of $15,000.

Intellectual Property

When patenting intellectual property, a person or company should budget more for the cost of the application. It's necessary to get broad patent protection or you could risk losing funding from investors.

Patent Searches

Patent applications are expensive, and one place where people and businesses try to cut costs is to skip the patent search. This integral step should never be skipped because it lets the applicant know whether it's a good idea to pursue a patent.

A patent search aims to reach an 80 percent confidence threshold. It is usually cost prohibitive to reach a higher confidence threshold. To reach near certainty could cost millions of dollars. Also, applications filed within the last 18 months are required by law to be kept secret so they can't be found regardless.

Patent attorneys can find prior patents and pending applications, which are difficult for someone to find on their own. You may want to consider completing a simple patent search first but rely on a patent attorney to do a professional search. It's worth the money to receive a written analysis from a patent attorney.

The cost of a professional patent search ranges from $1,000 to $3,000 depending on:

  • How much analysis you want
  • How complex your invention is
  • Amount of prior art discovered

This search could decide the rest of the patent process, but it could also show that there isn't much opportunity to receive a patent to suit your needs. Finding out this information early can save thousands of dollars.

Provisional Patent Applications

To save costs, inventors can file a provisional patent application. These types of applications must disclose the entire invention, but this type of application is easier to prepare due to reduced formalities. The attorney fees for a provisional patent application usually cost about $2,000 with a filing fee of about $130. You should also expect to pay about $100 per page for drawings.

The complexity of the invention and the technology all contribute to the final cost of a provisional patent application. For computer or software technology, the cost will be closer to $6,000 for attorney fees. These types of applications need much more information to describe the architecture, algorithms, and sub-routines involved in technology.

If you decide to pursue a provisional patent application, watch out for these three things:

  1. Make sure the application meets the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112. These requirements include describing the components, connections, and operation of the invention.
  2. Avoid using restrictive words in your written description like "essential," "must," or "necessary."
  3. Your descriptions should be accurate but broad. Use generic terms when possible such as "fastener" as opposed to "nail."

Estimated Patent Cost

  • The attorney fees for a simple invention such as an electrical switch, paper clip, coat hanger, diapers, earmuffs, or ice-cube tray range from $5,000 to $7,000. A patent search with an opinion is around $1,000.
  • The attorney fees for a relatively simple invention such as an umbrella or board game range from $7,000 to $8,500 with costs for a patent search with opinion at around $1,250.
  • For a minimally complex invention such as a camera, lawnmower, or power hand tool, the attorney costs are between $8,500 to $10,000 with the patent search with opinion costing closer to $1,500.
  • A moderately complex invention includes cell phones and riding lawn mowers with the attorney fees ranging from $10,000 to $12,000. The patent search with opinion ranges from $1,500 to $1,750.
  • The attorney fees for a relatively complex invention can cost from $12,000 to $14,000 with a patent search and opinion costing as much as $2,000. An example of this type of invention includes a shock-absorbing prosthetic device.
  • Highly complex inventions include software, business methods, and automated systems. These fees start at $16,000. The patent search with attorney opinion ranges from $2,500 to $3,000.

If you need help understanding the costs of filing 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.