1. Don't Make the Poor Man's Patent Mistake
2. Misusing a Provisional Patent Application
3. The Cost to Patent an Idea in 2018
4. Confirming Your Invention Hasn't Been Previously Patented

Updated November 2, 2020:

Inexpensive patents are not hard to obtain and have been designed so individuals can do them themselves without the need to hire an attorney. While you will have to pay filing fees to have the patent reviewed, and issue fees once awarded, you should be able to complete the application yourself. If the $1,000 in fees is still more than you can afford, you may want to consider filing for a provisional patent for around $100, providing you with patent-pending status for up to 365 days.

You will lose all rights to the patent at the end of the year if you do not complete a utility patent application. A provisional patent allows you to start marketing your product and perhaps seek out a partner that will license it and agree to pay for the utility patent.

Don't Make the Poor Man's Patent Mistake

We've all heard it. If you have an idea all you need to do is write it down, seal it in an envelope and mail it to yourself via certified mail, and you will have proof of when your invention was created. FALSE! This method of trying to patent an invention has never worked in proving you came up with an invention first.

The approved and recognized Patent System as outlined by the U.S. government includes the following components:

  • The USPTO
  • A database of attorneys specializing in patent law
  • The court system

This is the only recognized way to protect an invention or idea. Relying on the "Poor Man's Patent" myth may cost you the rights to your invention.

Misusing a Provisional Patent Application

Since being created in 1996 by Congress, inventors assume that because the provisional patent application will not be reviewed or rejected by the USPTO, they do not need to take the time necessary to complete this important document fully and accurately. Again, this is FALSE! The purpose of the provisional patent application is to allow the inventor to keep their place in line while completing the utility patent application. The provisional patent application still includes many of the same requirements as utility patent applications, specifically that it must meet "enablement" under 35 U.S.C. § 112.

While the USPTO will not be reviewing provisional patent applications, other parties, lawyers and the courts may be examining it if a question of ownership or timing ever arises. A well-written application will almost always trump an incomplete one, even if it was filed on a later date, and ultimately decide ownership during a dispute. For both the provisional and utility applications, it is important to focus on the main elements of your inventions and what makes it different than anything else currently available while using wording that is a nice combination of general and specific in nature.

The Cost to Patent an Idea in 2018

The bottom line for many people is still “what will it cost to patent my idea." There are two main ways you can determine this:

  • Draft and file the application yourself for around $900. This covers the USPTO fees only.
  • Utilize the services of a patent attorney to complete and file the application. This will cost around $5,000 - $10,000 due to attorney billable hours.

There are many fees associated with a patent that is spread out over the lifetime of the patent. The following timeline provides a visual example of the fees you will be paying:

  • Complete, file, and pay $70 to cover USPTO filing fee for provisional patent application.
  • Complete, file, and pay around $400 to cover USPTO filing and search fees for a utility patent application.
  • Pay $450 for USPTO patent issue fee.
  • Pay $400 maintenance fee 3.5 years after patent is issued.
  • Pay $900 maintenance fee 7.5 years after patent is issued.
  • Pay $1,850 maintenance fee 11.5 years after patent is issued.

Confirming Your Invention Hasn't Been Previously Patented

While there are many free patent databases available to search, be careful not to assume there are no patents after a quick search. Completing a comprehensive prior art search will assist you in determining if your invention is eligible for a patent and if that patent will be enforceable.

If you need help with inexpensive patents, 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.