How Much Does It Cost to Patent an Idea?

If you have an idea to patent, there are two ways to approach it. You can:

  • Write your own patent application. This is the cheapest way to get your patent application done. It costs an average of $900 for most inventors to receive a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
  • Hire a patent attorney to file your application. With this option, you will hire a patent agent or attorney who will help you perform the research and fill out the patent application with the USPTO. This route can run anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 depending on the complexity and amount of time the application takes.

During a typical patent for an invention or process, much of the expense outside of advisor fees are fees imposed by the USPTO. Some of the fees associated with acquiring a patent include:

  • Filing for a provisional patent application. The USPTO charges a fee of $70 and up. The $70 fee is for those who meet micro-entity status.
  • Filing a non-provisional patent application. To complete this, the fees will include a filing fee and a search fee that total around $400.
  • Patent issue fee. If your patent is approved by the USPTO, you will be required to pay a $450 fee to have it issued.
  • Maintenance fee. There are three maintenance fees that you will be required to pay to the USPTO throughout the life of your patent. The first maintenance fee will run $400 and is due 3 1/2 years after the patent is allowed. The next fee will be $900 and due at 7 1/2 years. The final payment will be $1,850 and will be due 11 1/2 years from the patent allowed date.

These fees are what you can expect to pay if you file for and maintain your patent on your own. If you hire the assistance of a patent agent or attorney, their fees will be additional and typically extend to their hourly billing rates. On average, a good patent lawyer will run anywhere from $200 to $400 an hour, and the amount of time spent will mostly depend on how complex a patent is.

What Is the Average Patent Lawyer Cost?

A patent lawyer can help you with the how to patent an idea process and typically costs around $380 per hour depending on location, type of law firm, and experience in years or technical training.

  • Location: Experienced patent attorneys outside major cities are between $275 to $400 per hour, while attorneys in major cities are between $400 to $800+ per hour. The most expensive areas are Boston and New York (averaging +$75 more per hour) and California (averaging +$50 more per hour).
  • Type of Law Firm: Solo practitioners cost an average of $321 per hour, while private firm partners cost an average of $425 per hour.

The total amount you will spend on a patent lawyer varies heavily based on what type of idea you are trying to patent.

For larger companies patenting software or advanced technologies, a patent can easily cost $15,000. If you're a small-business owner or individual, however, the lowest you will generally pay for a quality patent is about $5,000.

Your best bet is hiring an experienced patent lawyer who specializes in patent law but who doesn't work in a firm that has a lot of overhead.

With that said, don't just pick the lawyer offering the lowest fee. Bargain prices sound great, but you could get stuck with poor service and less one-on-one time with your lawyer.

Why Is Using a Patent Lawyer Important?

Each year, thousands of would-be inventors try to fill out their own provisional patent application, but this isn't enough. You'll also need a different, more detailed type of application called a nonprovisional.

The patent process involves a lot of research and paperwork, scientific knowledge, an understanding of patent law, and knowing how to follow the Patent and Trademark Office rules. Because of all this, most people looking to get an idea patented hire a lawyer.

If paying a lawyer to fill out your patent forms seems wasteful, consider how the lawyer fees get broken down:

  • Utility patents — $280 just to file.
  • Design patents — $180 to file.
  • Plant patents — $180 to file.
  • Drawing fees — $75 to $150.
  • Patent maintenance fees — $1,600 at 3.5 years, $3,600 at 7.5 years, and $7,400 at 11.5 years.

Average patent lawyer fees vary with location and the attorney's experience level. It is important to understand just how much a lawyer can do for you during this complex process so that you understand why it's worth the cost.

Your patent lawyer may charge a $5,000 fee to quickly move a patent application through, but this covers:

  • The patent search and review. This is typically a fixed cost since it may be outsourced to special prior art firms and averages around $500 to $1,000 depending on the level of detail and whether or it is international.
  • Patentability opinion. This evaluates the likelihood of getting a patent and is typically influenced by the complexity of the idea with an estimated low range of around $1,000. Without a patentability opinion, a patent search consultation should be around $250 to $500.
  • Filing the application. The cost here varies depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Registration.
  • Amendments and communication with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Publication challenges.
  • Approval.

If your application isn't accepted, you can also be charged hourly for a lawyer to fix the issue. That's why it's important to hire a good one from the start.

Qualifications to Look for in a Patent Attorney

Choosing a good patent attorney can be the difference between getting your patent successfully approved and seeing it fail. To be qualified as a patent attorney, a lawyer will have to have achieved admission to both the state bar and the patent bar. Admission to the patent bar is achieved by satisfying the requirements of the USPTO registration exam. This exam will prove an attorney's knowledge as it pertains to patent law.

You may also find patent attorneys who have education or specialties in other related fields that can be extremely beneficial, depending on the nature of your patent.

Specializations

Some patent firms will actually specialize in a specific industry and related inventions, which allows them to have expert knowledge in the field. For example, Reem Allos Patent Services is a firm that puts specific focus on patents for electrical, mechanical, and software inventions. Other companies, such as Ascenda Law Group, focus only on technology, media, and life sciences.

Attorney's Fees

When determining attorney's fees, you will find that most bill by the hour. However, there are some patent attorneys who will charge a set fee in addition to an hourly fee for work that falls outside of the original project scope. It is important to note that these fees do not typically include USPTO fees.

An example of attorney fees is as follow:

  • The filing and drafting or a nonprovisional patent - $4,500.
  • The filing and drafting of a provisional patent - $2,000.
  • Patent search - $600.
  • Responding to an office action - $1,500.
  • Additional work - $200 per hour.

You may also find attorneys who charge different fees based on specialization. This is often linked to the fact that certain specialties are more difficult and time-consuming. An example of specialty billing would be as follows:

  • Filing and drafting a nonprovisional patent for an electrical invention - range of $5,500-$8,500.
  • Filing and drafting of a nonprovisional patent for a mechanical invention - range of $5,500-$7,500.
  • Filing and drafting a patent application for a more complex electrical, mechanical, or internet invention - range of $7,000-$12,000.

Managing Costs

When you contact an attorney, they will most likely offer you a free consultation to answer any questions you may have regarding filing for a patent. At this time, they will often discuss with you their costs and fees. This consultation will usually last about 15 minutes, and, typically, any meeting after that will be billed for. To help keep your costs as low as possible, you should always be prepared when you arrive at your attorney's office and avoid unnecessary conversation.

Your attorney should be able to provide you with a guide on the documenting and preparation process to allow you to come to each meeting prepared with information that they will need. By knowing what you need to bring and staying focused, you will reduce the number of billable hours.

You may also want to consider an attorney who offers a start-up company package that can provide you with the legal services you will need while allowing you to save money on the overall costs. If not, you can consider hiring a patent agent to keep your costs down.

Reasons to Consider Not Paying the Patent Lawyer Cost

Provisional patent forms are easier to file because they're not reviewed by the United States Patent Office. However, no lawyer recommends filling out your own nonprovisional patent form. This application is very difficult to prepare, and it's the reason why you'll want to speak with a lawyer when beginning the patent process. Since you're hiring a patent lawyer, you'll want to have him or her submit your provisional patent form also.

It's no secret that there are benefits to patenting an idea yourself, without the help of a lawyer. These benefits include saving thousands of dollars in patent lawyer fees and being able to fill out the application on your own time. That way you won't have to pay rush fees or stick with your lawyer's schedule.

Keep in mind, though, that the risks of self-filing outweigh the benefits:

  • You could make costly mistakes that lead to losing your patent rights.
  • You will have to spend a lot of time researching the process so that you can understand how to fill out the application on your own.
  • In certain countries, you may not be ready to file your patent within one year of the application.

While the "poor man's patent" was once a popular way of claiming ownership over an idea, this method no longer applies. This involved sending yourself a letter about your product or idea so you can prove your ownership of it later. With legal changes in patent law, however, you can no longer rely on this method. You can, however, write a provisional application.

Self-drafting your own application is a decision you should carefully consider. While the choice comes down to you, be sure to consider long-term costs and protections. Hiring a patent lawyer will almost always be the right choice.

Reasons to Consider Paying the Patent Lawyer Cost

Patent lawyers do a lot more than you may think. These are just a few areas in which a good patent lawyer will provide help:

  • Perform a patent search. This step involves seeing whether a similar invention has already been patented.
  • Narrow down the patent scope. If a similar invention already exists, a lawyer can narrow the scope of your patent to prove it's unique. He or she can also file a patent pending application.
  • Prepare and file the application. Patent applications include an outline of the invention, descriptions of any earlier inventions that are similar, descriptions of how the idea can be used, and legal descriptions.
  • Refine and resubmit the application. Patent applications are often rejected by the Patent Office after the first submission. When this happens, your lawyer will review the application and make any changes until you can try again.

After doing a patent search, your attorney reviews the results and issues a patentability opinion either in writing or verbally. This opinion considers any existing prior art, as well as how much of this art was found during the search. Of course, patentability opinions are not free. The low range for this service is around $1,000.

Still, given the complexity of patents and the field of invention itself, a patentability opinion could be an essential step in your patenting process. If you're simply looking for a patent lawyer who can answer your questions without providing a search or patentability opinion, you will likely pay around $250 to $500 for a consultation.

What Are the Various Patent Lawyer Costs?

Lawyer fees are decided on a case-by-case basis, so there are different ways you could be charged your patent lawyer fees:

  • Hourly. Most legal work is done hourly, so you pay a set rate for however many hours it takes the lawyer to complete the patent filing process. You may be asked to pay for a certain number of hours upfront. Anything after that is generally billed at the end of the month. With hourly rates, you are typically charged for phone calls, emails, and meetings.
  • Flat fee. In a practice where patent work is done consistently, you may be charged a flat rate. This means the lawyer gives you a set price upfront, and that price will cover the entire process no matter how many hours it takes. Knowing how much you'll pay in advance is nice since you can budget for it without anything unexpected coming up.
  • Capped fee. This is a combination of an hourly and flat fee. Capped fees are similar to hourly rates, but they come with a maximum amount that can be billed. You will know ahead of time what the maximum fee is you may have to pay.
  • Retainer. Retainers are great for companies that need a lot of legal advice. That's because a retainer is an upfront fee given to the lawyer before any work begins, which is kept in a client trust account. This also means the lawyer cannot take the money until the work is completed, even though you're paying the amount into the trust account.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does a patent cost? A simple patent costs an average of $5,000 to $7,000 to complete. A moderately complicated idea like a riding lawnmower costs anywhere from $9,000 to $10,000. Highly complex ideas, such as networking systems, medical equipment, and other technologies, cost upward of $15,000.
  • What kinds of patent costs are there? Minor patent costs involve filing fees, which rarely go over $500. On average, filing fees cost between $200 and $300. Lawyer fees are the major costs associated with patents. The amount you'll pay in patent lawyer costs varies, but a good attorney typically starts at anywhere from $300 to $500 per hour.
  • Can I use an online legal site to file a patent? While online legal sites are attractive options for filing your own patent and saving money, they're not recommended. That's because these patents don't protect you. You're only paying to have the patent application filed correctly, not filled out correctly, which often results in rejection.
  • Why should I hire a patent lawyer? Patent lawyers know the ins and outs of patent law and perform detailed research so that your patent application is done correctly. They know how to negotiate for you, and they know what to say on patent applications.

Steps to File

  1. Determine the type of patent you need. Figure out whether you're filing a utility, design, plant, or software patent.
  2. Determine which type of patent application you need. Patent applications include provisional, nonprovisional, and international.
  3. Find a lawyer to help. Post a job on UpCounsel to find a quality patent lawyer that can help you through the patent process.

If you need help with the costs of a patent lawyer, 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, Stripe, and Twilio.