Patent Cost: Everything You Need to Know
When figuring a patent cost, there are several variables that can affect how much that cost will be. 9 min read
When figuring a patent cost, there are several variables that can affect how much that cost will be. Some of those variables include lawyer’s fees, idea marketability, the amount of technology required for the invention, and in what country you apply for a patent. Following are some basic guidelines that inventors can use to estimate costs and plan a budget.
A primary factor that can affect patent cost is the actual invention, particularly in relation to how complicated it is. Even when working with simple invention, a patent application often involves lots of writing and many drawings.
The first thing to do is to file a non-provisional patent application. This requires paying lawyer’s fees of $5,000 to $15,000, or more, based on how intricate the details of the application need to be.
If the invention has strong marketing opportunities, an inventor will want to make sure that patent protection is as strong as possible, which will require an investment at the top end of the expense scale. However, statistics reveal that almost 97 percent of patents return less revenue than was spent to get them.
Filing for patents can be an expensive time-consuming process so small companies should be highly selective about what patents they file for. In the case of a biotech company, for example, they can easily spend between $10,000 and $20,000 filing for patents.
The patent application filing fee for a basic utility patent is $330, which is in addition to a $540 utility patent search fee and a $220 examination fee, plus patent maintenance fees of $980 after three years.
Estimating US patent costs is a difficult matter because so much depends on the technology involved, but answering “it depends” is not particularly insightful or helpful.
The very nature of patenting an invention means that you have to have come up with something unique compared with the prior art. There are challenges inherent in the description of what makes an invention unique, and the law is only getting more complicated.
Many things influence the anticipated cost of preparing and filing a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The Cost of Obtaining a Patent in the U.S.: Considerations
The invention is one of the most important considerations when estimating patent cost. The type of invention and the degree of complexity will dictate the patent cost.
Many inventors misappropriate the amount of time it takes to define and describe their idea or invention. If time is underestimated, your cost will be as well. Being able to understand exactly how complex your idea is in relation to how difficult the concept is to outline in an application is crucial to estimating the time it take to complete your patent application correctly.
Most patent applications are relatively simple or minimally complex, but if you are dealing with a sophisticated electronic device your invention is almost certainly at least moderately complex and more likely relatively complex
If you are going to ultimately receive a patent you are going to need to file a non-provisional patent application. Without knowing a good deal about an invention, it is very difficult, if not completely impossible, to give reliable estimates as to likely costs associated with filing a non-provisional patent application.
Any estimate you get online is just a ballpark because attorney’s fees through filing can certainly go well above $15,000 depending on complexity of invention and/or the need for and ability to acquire broad patent protection.
When intellectual property is all that a company has, they will need a patent to be especially strong, meaning even greater costs for each patent they want to apply for. Without strong patent protection, it becomes less likely that they will be able to obtain sufficient funding from investors to pursue the rights granted under the patent.
When looking for ways to reduce expenses, small businesses and individual inventors will cut the wrong corners, such as abandoning the idea of a patent search. Patent searches are crucial. They help you decide if it makes any sense to pursue a patent for your idea at all. Patent searches don’t offer any guarantees, but foregoing one might just end up costing you more in the long run.
Another thing inventors can do to reduce costs is to first start by filing a provisional patent application. A provisional patent application needs to disclose the invention completely as would a non-provisional patent application, but the exact formalities are greatly reduced making it easier to prepare, meaning it costs less. The cost for attorney time alone for a provisional patent application is typically at least $2,000.
You also need to consider how many previous patents or application are available for peripheral ideas or inventions to yours. The number of similar patents and applications can dictate your rate to file.
Patent costs can add up pretty fast, plus you will have post-filing costs once the application filed begins to be examined. You should include $5,000 to $7,500 more in your budget for those fees as well.
The high costs of getting a patent makes some inventors give up on their project. Others try to do it themselves or seek providers who will take on the project at a steep discount. Providers who will undertake such an effort for rock-bottom prices, though, are rarely, if ever, patent lawyers or agents, and those are the people who will help you get the job done right.
Do It Yourself Patent Applications
You can file patent applications for your own inventions.
Filing a patent application on your own is much more affordable, but is a huge amount of work and will lack the benefit of a trained professional. If you want to save money and get the best patent possible then do some of the work yourself.
When do you want to find the article that describes your exact invention, possibly blocking your application altogether: after hours searching or after thousands of dollars in legal fees? You can also draft your own patent application.
Find a patent that is related to your invention and use it as a template. Make your own drawings, create the phrases that describe the different parts of your invention, write your own patent claims.
Kinds of Patents: Provisional Patents
If you aren’t yet sure about investing serious money in a patent application but want to preserve your opportunity to do so, a provisional patent application is what you need to file. Their requirements are less formal, which makes them less expensive to draft. You can file a provisional patent application, and give yourself up to a year to convert it to a full application.
Kinds of Patents: Utility Patents
Utility patents are the most common type of patent, and when you think of patenting an invention or idea, you are most likely thinking of a utility patent.
Utility patents protect particular types of things, such as a machine. Methods and systems are also the kinds of things for which you would file a utility patent.
Kinds of Patents: Design Patent
There are other kinds of patents as well. A design patent, which protects the appearance of an invention, does not require as complicated an application as one for a utility patent. These patents protect the way something in the fashion industry looks, the design of various products, and even the idea for how a medical device will look.
A design patent can only help defend aesthetic design choices and costs roughly the same amount to file as a utility patent, but the application is only a few pages long and requires a minimum of drawings. Review by the patent office is also a lot shorter. This means there will be less expense involved in obtaining a patent.
Help Minimize Patent Cost
Obtaining a patent can be quite costly, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. However, if you do some of the legwork yourself, you can save money, and in the end, you may find yourself with a better patent. You can start out by investing in the time to make sure you apply for the appropriate patent.
Conducting a patent search on your own and trying to draft some of the application by yourself will keep you focused on your invention. This will all save you money, if and when you hand the project off to a patent attorney or patent agent later in the process.
Average Cost to Prepare a Utility Patent
This is what you can expect to pay, on average, to prepare and file a utility patent, based on what kind of invention you are seeking to patent:
- To prepare and file an initial application with a minimum amount of complexity, using a small patent company for a 10-page specification, with 10 claims, your cost would be roughly $8,548.00.
- For an invention with somewhat more complicated biotech or chemical cases, it can run you about $15,398.00.
- For fairly complicated mechanical cases, your costs will increase to around $11,482.00
- With complicated electrical or computer cases, the price can increase to $13,684, or more.
You can expect one or more rounds of amendments to your application after it is filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USTPO, over the course of more than a few years of prosecution. With each round of amendments come more lawyer’s fees. And each round of amendments requires additional attorney’s fees.
Average Cost to File an Amendment to Your Patent
An amendment with minimal complexity will cost you around $2,244.00. A relatively complicated biotech or chemical case will run roughly $4,448.00. An electrical or computer case that is fairly complicated can cost $3,910.00, and a fairly complicated mechanical case - $3,506.00.
The AIPLA Report of Economic Surveys for 2009 and 2011 show that the above estimates have not changed significantly in recent years.
Post-allowance and Issuance Fees
Post-allowance and issuance fees, which includes a fee for issuing each original patent, are mandated by and paid to the USPTO. A utility patent issue fee is currently $2,070 for a large entity and $1,185 for a small entity.
After issuance, patent maintenance fees are due at 3-1/2, 7-1/2, and 11-1/two years after being issued. The current large entity fees are $1,150 at 3-1/two years, $2,900 at 7-1/two years, and $4,810 at 11-1/two years. Small entity maintenance fees are $575 at 3-1/two years, $1,450 at 7-1/two years and $2,405 at 11-1/two years.
The publication of the AIPLA Report of the Economic Surveys in 2009 and 2011 demonstrate that these costs have not substantively changed in the years since the previous survey.
When securing an initial filing date for a patent, provisional utility patent applications are used. They can postpone a larger cost of filing a non-provisional patent application for up to a year. Inventors will use provisional patent applications to secure a “patent pending” status, which allows them extra time to decide whether or not their invention will be worthy of more financial investment.
Provisional utility patent applications are primarily placeholders to secure an initial filing date. This preserves a priority place in time should a similar patent subsequently be filed. However, the validity of any patent that is based on a provisional application is the quality of the application disclosure.
Fees related to preparing and filing a provisional patent application can be roughly $5,000 if you are working with a lawyer or patent expert.
In order to receive an issued utility patent from the USPTO, one needs to file a non-provisional utility patent application. This is the application that triggers the examination process at the USPTO. Non-provisional patent applications should cost the same whether or not you start with a provisional application.
Design Patent Applications
Design patents are used to protect a product’s unique appearance. Design patents have a limited scope compared to utility patent applications, but they are strong patents in the right context.
Patent Filing Steps, Timeline, Costs
The timeline for filing a patent application, along with the fees associated with The United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, are a s follows:
- File an application for a provisional patent, pay USPTO a $65 fee
- File an application for a non-provisional patent, pay around $400 in USPTO fees
- Pay USPTO a patent issue fee of $450
- Pay USPTO maintenance fees, which due 3-1/2, 7-1/2, and 11-1/two years after the patent is issued, in the amounts of $400, $900, and $1,850 respectively.
Patent fees, steps, and timelines all vary case by case, and if you decide to use a patent agent or attorney, your experience will also be different than those who try to attain a patent on their own.
If you want to hire a patent agent or patent attorney (recommended for non-provisional patent applications), then you will have to add on their billing rates.
Most competent patent lawyers will charge between $200-$400 per hour. This means paying between $5,000-$10,000 in attorney’s fees, in addition to the standard USPTO fees.
If you need help with patent costs, 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 have an average of 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.