Provisional Patent Cost: What Is It?

The provisional patent cost is directly related to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) which charges a $65 filing for micro-entities, $130 for small entities, and $260 for large entities to file a provisional patent application. Unlike the nonprovisional patent application process that comes later, there is no extra cost for submitting a paper application.

For more complex patents, USPTO will charge an extra $100, $200, or $400 for each additional 50 pages after the first 100, depending on the size of the entity. You can review the USPTO fee schedule at any time on the website, as the information is always up to date.

Why Is It Important to Understand Provisional Patent Cost?

Even if you're an individual and considered a micro-entity, you may have to pay additional fees if you're using a patent lawyer to file your provisional application. While you may be tempted to do the job yourself to only pay the $65 filing fee, keep in mind that the lawyer will save you a lot of time and headache.

Patent lawyer fees related to provisional patent applications tend to include conducting research, planning the application, and writing the application. They might even include communications with you over the phone or email. This hands-off approach to completing your patent filing may be the most expensive, but it's the best way to be sure everything is filed properly and on time.

Other fees associated with a patent include maintenance fees, which hit at year 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 of the patent's lifespan. These fees typically cost $800, $1,800, and $3,700, respectively. There are also post-filing fees and USPTO office action items required to complete the application.

Hiring a lawyer is generally recommended for most individuals and businesses at the start of the process. Not having legal help during the filing process can leave you at risk, costing you more money when you make a mistake. If you file the applications wrong, you will need to hire a lawyer to clean up the mess anyway. You would be out even more money than if you had simply hired a professional in the first place.

What's more, a lawyer can help you decide if you should apply for a patent internationally.

What Are Other Factors Related to Provisional Patent Cost?

The provisional patent application is only the first step in the patent process. It's also the easiest, which is why many people choose to file the application on their own.

The total cost of a patent application, however, depends on the field of your invention and its complexity. When you consider the more expensive cost of a nonprovisional patent application, you're looking at anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 to patent a device. The simpler the invention, the cheaper the patent will cost.

Companies producing software and other complex inventions tend to see their patent costs exceeding $17,000. When considering the entire process, the provisional patent application will cost about two-thirds to four-fifths the amount of the total patent application.

Also, it's important to note that filing a provisional patent application allows you to enjoy patent pending status. The application establishes a filing date for a future nonprovisional patent application, giving you one year to develop the full application. If you're able to find an investor interested in your invention during this time, you can negotiate any investment funds to help cover the more substantial costs associated with the nonprovisional application.

Reasons to Consider Your Provisional Patent Cost

Filing a provisional patent application is inexpensive compared to the rest of the process. The downside is that since it's the least expensive and can be done yourself, the provisional application is often done incorrectly. This application is merely a way to set a certain date by which your nonprovisional and official patent application must be submitted, but you still want to adhere to the right procedures.

Common mistakes in writing your own provisional patent application include:

  • Not writing a detailed description
  • Not preparing or describing detailed drawings of the invention
  • Not describing all variants of the invention

Since you get what you pay for, don't jump at the first patent lawyer advertising cut-rate services. Keep in mind, though, that your provisional application is never examined by USPTO and never becomes an official patent. The provisional patent application expires after one year, and if your nonprovisional patent application hasn't been filed by that date, you cannot claim any protections.

This doesn't mean there's no benefit to filing a provisional patent application, however. A provisional application can help protect your patent rights from the date of filing. If done incorrectly, those provisional rights can be lost.

Since March 2013, the United States has had a first-to-file law as part of the America Invents Act. This law states that patent rights are secured for the individual or company that was the first to file. Completing the provisional patent application buys you some time to fill out the required nonprovisional patent application while still offering your idea protection.

Regardless of how you approach the patent-filing process, the best cost estimator is a qualified patent lawyer. He or she can provide an accurate patent cost estimation, whether the firm charges by the hour or on a case-by-case basis.

Reasons to Consider Not Using a Provisional Patent Application

In general, most inventors will want to skip the provisional patent application. The money you would have used to file a provisional application is best served in the nonprovisional patent application efforts, which should be carried out by a patent lawyer.

Unless you're a do-it-yourselfer who wants to get the patent process started at the lowest possible cost, filing a provisional patent application may not even be necessary. If you're worried about manufacturers or competitors stealing your idea, go ahead and file a provisional patent application. Doing so will protect your idea until you're ready to file the regular nonprovisional application.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I file a bare-bones provisional patent application?

Yes. If you have disclosed any aspects of your invention publicly, such as during a presentation, filing a bare-bones provisional patent application is better than nothing. It will protect your ideas from being patented by anyone else who overheard the information.

In addition to the filing fees, your patent application may require professional patent illustrations. These can cost anywhere from $75 to $125 per sheet. The more complicated the invention, the more drawing sheets you'll need to pay for. There are also lawyer fees to consider.

  • Are patent applications expensive?

The provisional patent application costs $65 to file, but this doesn't take into account any attorney fees or time spent doing your own research. The total cost of your patent will depend on its complexity and can range anywhere from $2,000 to more than $17,000.

  • What are some cheap ways to file a provisional patent application?

The cheapest way to file your own provisional patent application is to write it yourself and file it with the Patent Office for $65. This is given that you're a micro-entity and not part of a larger corporation.

  • Can I use an online source to file my provisional patent application?

While you can use an online source to file your provisional patent application, that's all you can do. You cannot file your nonprovisional patent application, which will determine the fate of your idea. The pricing on these sites may look appealing, but you're often paying for a service you don't need. It's much better to use that money toward the nonprovisional filing.

  • What is the average cost of getting a provisional patent from an UpCounsel lawyer?

Most lawyers from UpCounsel can complete your provisional patent application for about $1,500. Keep in mind, though, that this does not include the nonprovisional patent application.

If you need help with your provisional patent costs, 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.