Patent Fees: What Are They?

Patent fees relate to the United States Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) standard costs for processing patent searches, patent examinations, provisional patent applications, utility patent applications, patent issue, patent maintenance, and appeals.

The patent office charges fees for every action it performs. A standard fee schedule shows the amount you owe. The complete schedule includes the costs for every type of patent and trademark filing. It also includes fees for maintenance, appeals, and other services.

Why Are Patent Office Fees Important?

The USPTO plays an important role in innovation and job creation in the U.S. Over time, several pieces of legislation have been introduced to improve the patent office's power and funding.

Advantages of Patent Office Fees

  • They Provide Necessary Funding

The patent office is a fee-funded government agency, so payments are necessary for the agency to provide services.

  • They Limit the Number of Patents Filed

Virtually every USPTO service requires a fee, meaning applicants tend not to request unnecessary services. As a result, the patent office can manage its workload.

Disadvantages of Patent Office Fees

  • They Encourage More Patent Applications

Affordable fees encourage more applications, which makes more work for the patent office. Cheaper fees can lead to more low-quality patents for low-value inventions.  Also, low fees can encourage "patent trolls," that buy up old patents with the demanding licensing fees from companies that develop subsequent technologies.  Higher fees may discourage some patent owners from maintaining patents for long periods of time. 

  • They Require the USPTO to Issue More Patents

The patent fee structure offers relatively low fees for patent applications, but charge higher fees for issuing patents. That means the patent office earns more money from granting patents. Increasing the filing fees and lowering the issue fees could decrease the number of patents that the patent office has to issue to maintain funding.

Patent Office Fee Classifications

The USPTO charges fees based on three classifications:

  • Large Entity: This standard fee includes large businesses. It also includes all entities that don't meet the other classifications. Large entities pay the full fee.
  • Small Entity: This includes entities that fall under the definition of section 3 of the Small Business Act. Small entities need fewer than 500 employees. This classification can include independent applicants, universities, and some nonprofits. Small entities pay 50 percent of the full fee in almost every category.
  • Micro Entity: The USPTO introduced this classification on March 19, 2013, in the America Invents Act. Micro entities have to file a Certification of Micro Entity Status. They have to meet the small entity requirements and several others. They can't be named on more than four previous patent applications. Their gross income has to be less than three times the median household income for the previous year. They can't be under obligation to assign or license to entities that don't meet these requirements. Micro entities pay 25 percent of the full fee in almost every category.

Types of Patent Office Fees

The USPTO issues many types of patent fees. The main types are as follows:

  • Patent Application Fees: These are due when you submit a patent application.

Description

Large Entity

Small Entity

Micro Entity

Utility Patent Application

$280

$70

$70

Utility Patent Search

$600

$300

$150

Utility Patent Examination

$720

$360

$180

Design Patent Application

$180

$90

$45

Design Patent Search

$120

$60

$30

Design Patent Examination

$460

$230

$115

Plant Patent Application

$180

$90

$45

Plant Patent Search

$380

$190

$95

Plant Patent Examination

$580

$290

$145

Provisional Patent Application

$260

$130

$65

 

  • Extension Fees: These grant you more time to respond to an Office Action issued by the patent examiner. You can usually purchase one additional month at a time, but you can't usually purchase more than five additional months. Also, if you want to fight a final rejection of your patent applilcation, you can file for continued examination. The cost is $600.00 for the first filing and $850.00 for subsequent ones.

Description

Large Entity

Small Entity

Micro Entity

One-Month Extension

$200

$100

$50

Two-Month Extension

$600

$300

$150

Three-Month Extension

$1,400

$700

$350

Four-Month Extension

$2,200

$1,100

$550

Five-Month Extension

$3,000

$1,500

$750

 

  • Patent Post-Allowance Fees: These are due when your patent is issued.

Description

Large Entity

Small Entity

Micro Entity

Utility Patent Issue

$960

$480

$240

Design Patent Issue

$560

$280

$140

Plant Patent Issue

$760

$380

$190

 

  • Patent Maintenance Fees: These are due throughout the life of your patent. You must pay them to keep your patent active.

Description

Large Entity

Small Entity

Micro Entity

Due at 3.5 Years

$1,600

$800

$400

Due at 7.5 Years

$3,600

$1,800

$900

Due at 11.5 Years

$7,400

$3,700

$1,850

Surcharge at 3.5 Years for Late Payment Within Six Months

$160

$80

$40

Surcharge at 7.5 Years for Late Payment Within Six Months

$160

$80

$40

Surcharge at 11.5 Years for Late Payment Within Six Months

$160

$80

$40

Petition for Delayed Maintenance Payment

$1,700

$850

$850

 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Often Does the Fee Schedule Change?

The current USPTO fee schedule went into effect on January 1, 2014 and the agency edits the schedule regularly. In 2016, the office proposed and adjustment to some of its fees, including increases for some services.  It has received a very high number of America Invents Act (AIA) appeals. As a result, it has proposed increasing the trial fee. This will help the agency handle the workload and fund its services.

The office also introduces new classifications occasionally. You should always confirm the fee schedule before submitting payment. 

  • Do I Have to Pay the Full Fee?

You have to pay the fee that applies to your business. Large businesses, small entities, and micro entities all pay different fees. Review the patent office fee schedule to check the amount you owe.

  • When Is the Fee Due?

Due dates depend on the type of action you need to take. The patent office doesn't usually send reminders. It's your responsibility to make sure you pay on time.

  • Are There Any Additional Fees?

If you handle the patent fees and paperwork yourself, there aren't additional fees. You can also hire a lawyer to help you with a patent application. The average patent lawyer charges about $300 per hour. This adds up as follows:

  • Filing a patent application: $5,000 to $10,000
  • Amending a patent application: $1,500 to $4,000
  • Filing a patent issue fee: $300 to $900

Steps to File Patent Office Fees

1.     Review the Current Fee Schedule

Always review the USPTO fee schedule before filing a payment. Sending the wrong payment could delay your filing.

2.     Complete Transmittal Form

Many payments require a fee transmittal form or other documents. Record your contact information and patent number correctly on each form.

If you need help with patent office fees you can post your question or concern 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 Twilio.