Updated November 16, 2020:

The provisional patent cost includes the following USPTO filing fees:

  • $65 filing for micro-entities
  • $130 for small entities
  • $260 for large entities

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 fee to file a provisional patent application. Unlike the non-provisional patent application process that comes later, there is no extra cost for submitting a paper application.

For more complex patents, the 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.

When utilizing the services of an attorney to help file your provisional patent, you can expect to pay somewhere around $2,000 in fees depending on how complex the patent is. Attorney fees often include the costs for the attorney to plan and draft the applications as well as the costs for the time it takes to research other patents and communicate with you.

In addition to attorney fees, you will also find higher charges as the complexity of the invention goes up, similar to what you would find with a non-provisional patent. Completing a high-quality provisional patent application for software, for instance, requires much more information than other types, which accounts for the increase in cost.

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 also 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.

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 this 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 non-provisional patent application, you're looking at anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 to patent a device. The simpler the invention, the less 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 non-provisional 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 non-provisional 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 by yourself, the provisional application is often done incorrectly. This application is merely a way to set a certain date by which your non-provisional 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 the following:

  • 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 non-provisional patent application hasn't been filed by that date, you cannot claim any protection.

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 non-provisional 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.

Why Should Inventors Apply for a Provisional Patent?

A provisional patent application is completed the same way that a non-provisional one would be, but a provisional patent comes with significantly fewer formalities. This translates into fewer costs to the investor. With a provisional patent, you can also add supporting documents to the original draft to ensure you are covering everything you want to in it.

You will find that most inventors choose to file a provisional patent when they make an interesting advance or achievement. This provides them with the power to protect what they have come up with while refining and finalizing the work on their invention.

With a provisional patent, you have the protection to continue working on and adding to your invention for the next 12 months without the risk of the idea being stolen. In fact, due to its nature, a provisional patent is referred to by many as a placeholder for an invention. The 12-month clock starts when you file, giving you up to a year to finalize your invention and apply for a full utility patent.

Provisional patents can also be a beneficial option for those who expect to have to refine their application before having to apply for a full utility patent. Yet it is important to note that to increase the odds of acceptance, your invention will need to have been fully thought out, and you must conduct the necessary research before filing — even for a provisional patent.

Writing a Provisional Patent Application

The provisional patent application process is an important one. Once you have filed for your provisional patent, you will be able to include "patent pending" on your prototype, both to show investors that your idea is protected and to let competitors know not to infringe.

Filing a provisional patent does not eliminate your international patent rights and allows you to file for an international utility patent application.

As with any application, you have the ability to file the application yourself, but it is often recommended to find a registered patent attorney or agent to help ensure the process is completed properly and to provide technical guidance. When writing your provisional patent application, you need to keep three primary things in mind:

  • Make sure the application meets the requirements for the written description. Your content must be adequately described, including the components of your invention, their connections to each other, and instructions for how the invention is supposed to operate.
  • Avoid unnecessary restrictions in your language. Words such as "vital," "necessary," and "must" are all terms that can restrict the scope of your invention. When creating your description, make sure the language is detailed, but avoid limiting language.
  • Keep your descriptions broad but fully accurate. Your patent description should be as accurate as possible to avoid legal complications down the road. You also want to make sure the language is broad so you are not confining yourself to overly specific details. For example, instead of using the word "screw," use the word "fastener," which can provide a more broad guideline of your protected invention.

Reasons to Consider Not Using a Provisional Patent Application

Many inventors will want to skip the provisional patent application. The money you would have used to file a provisional application may be better used in your non-provisional 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 non-provisional 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.
  • What other patent application costs should I be worried about? 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 provisional patent application is to write it yourself and file it with the Patent Office for $65 (assuming 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 non-provisional 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 non-provisional 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 non-provisional patent application.

If you need help with your provisional patent costs, you can post your legal need 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, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.