How Much Does a Utility Patent Cost?

The cost of a utility patent includes a $540 patent search fee, a $220 examination fee, a $330 application filing fee, and possibly a patent lawyers legal fees which can range upwards of $10,000. The utility patent lasts 20 years from the date of the original application filing and includes maintenance fees that are billed every few years as follows:

  • 3.5 years - $980
  • 7.5 years - $2,580
  • 11.5 years - $4,110

If your patent application has more than three claims on it, you'll be charged an extra $220 per claim. If you have more than 10 claims on the application, the fee is only $52 per claim.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) might also include additional fees including post-issuance fees, extension of time fees, and trademark processing fees, among others.

Utility Patent: What is it?

There are two main types of patents granted by the USPTO:

  • Design Patent: Only protects overall design and not the functional features of an invention
  • Utility Patent: Granted for new machines, processes, compositions of matter (including drugs, chemicals, and lifeforms), manufacturing, and business methods

Is a Patent Attorney Worth the Cost?

Getting and maintaining a utility patent is a time-consuming, expensive process. Not only are you stuck with mandatory fees from the Patent Office, but you'll also need to pay your lawyer and patent draftsperson (the professional who draws your patent illustrations).

Should You Do It Yourself to Save Money?

Trying to file a utility patent application on your own requires extensive research and understanding of the patent application process itself, not to mention an understanding of patent databases and patent search engines, both of which can help you make sure your idea is patentable.

Failing to research the patent process may result in costly mistakes. The worst-case scenario is that you lose your patent rights altogether. Hiring a patent lawyer means making sure the job is done right and in a timely manner.

Fortunately, you do have some time to decide. The first step in the patent-filing process is called the provisional patent application. This is an unofficial application you can fill out on your own and submit to the patent office. It will give you "Patent Pending" protections for one year, but you must file the official non-provisional patent application before the provisional expires.

If you choose to go this route, you can use this year to save the money to hire a professional and pay the patent fees in order to get your invention patented on time.

While hiring a professional is almost always recommended, there are some instances when you can likely complete the utility patent application yourself. These include having:

  • Plenty of free time to devote to the process
  • The writing skills needed to articulate your invention in the application
  • A highly organized, project-minded brain

Unless this describes you, hiring a patent lawyer if your best bet.

Issues to Consider in Utility Patent Costs

You can file the more inexpensive provisional patent application first, which protects your invention for a full year. During this year, you can meet with investors and financial institutions to raise funds for the non-provisional patent application and lawyer fees. You will generally need a breakdown of these costs to show to any party interested in lending you money for the patent.

Since utility patents are the most valuable, the costs to patent them at the USPTO can range anywhere from $6,000 to $15,000. The more complex the invention, the higher the cost. The most affordable patent application is restricted to "micro-entities," which is a small inventor that has not been previously named on more than four patent applications.

Next, you have the "small entity," which are usually independent inventors, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Corporations fall under the umbrella of "large entities," and as such they are charged the most expensive filing fees.

Hiring a Lawyer

When hiring a lawyer to complete the patent application process, you should discuss billing methods. Many patent lawyers bill by the hour, and since a complicated utility patent application can take a long time to complete, the cost of the lawyer's time alone could end up being $10,000.

Some attorneys do work for a flat fee, but you'll need to make sure the lawyer will complete all the work in detail rather than do the bare minimum. Capped fees are also an option at some law firms, which are essentially hourly rates with a limit; you cannot be billed more than the agreed upon cap. You should always compare your options.

Filing a Provisional Utility Patent Application vs. a Non-Provisional Utility Patent Application

There are two types of patent applications: provisional and non-provisional. The provisional application is generally considered a placeholder because it protects your invention with a "Patent Pending" protection, but it is not the official patent application. The official application is the non-provisional form.

The provisional patent application gives you a filing date but doesn't begin the USPTO review process. In fact, the USPTO doesn't even look at your provisional patent application. The application will essentially start the clock on the time limit to file the non-provisional patent application.

Filing a provisional patent application gives you the right to claim "patent pending" status on your invention. You can then show it to whomever you wish without worrying about someone stealing the idea. You also won't lose your international patent rights.

The provisional patent application gives you a full year to develop your product and research the market before deciding whether to file an official patent application. While you can file the provisional application yourself, it helps to have some sort of guidance, particular from a registered patent lawyer.

When writing your provisional patent application, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Be sure the application meets the enablement and written description requirements of 35 U.S.C 112. You should adequately describe the components, their connection, and the invention's operation in detail.
  2. Avoid using restrictive language in the description such as "necessary," "must," "essential," etc.
  3. Be accurate but broad. For example, if your invention uses a nail to hold together two components, you can refer to the nail as a "fastener," or state that one piece of wood is "coupled" with the second piece.

While you can fill out the provisional patent application yourself or even skip it altogether, the non-provisional application is far more demanding. The USPTO will use the non-provisional patent application to review your invention, assess its value and functionality, and make a decision whether to award a patent. Because it's an official document, the non-provisional application is more expensive than the provisional, and it must be done according to exacting standards, which is why most inventors hire a patent lawyer.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What's the average cost of a utility patent?

While your costs may vary, the average utility patent will cost between $5,000 and $15,000. If you decide to write your own application, your cost will be on the lower end.

  • What other patent fees should I consider?

The cost to apply for a patent is only one part of the process. As an inventor, you must consider the costs associated with prosecuting, revising, issuing, and maintaining the patent. Doing some of the steps on your own, such as filling out the provisional patent application, can help keep your total patent costs down.

You can also request expedited handling to get your patent decision from the USPTO within 12 months from the date of your application. This expedited request costs an additional $4,130 for large entities and $2,070 for small entities. Conditions also apply. See the USPTO's Federal Register announcement for more information.

  • What is a patent issue fee?

Before the USPTO grants a patent, you will need to pay an issue fee. Currently, the issue fee for a utility patent, including the publication fee, is $2,070 for large entities. For small entities, the issue fee is $1,185.

  • Will I make money from a utility patent?

There is no guarantee you will make money from patenting an invention. In fact, as much as 97 percent of patents earn less revenue than they cost to obtain.

  • Are there any ways to save money on the patent application process?

You can file your applications electronically on the USPTO website. When you file by paper, you're looking at an extra $400 fee – no exceptions. If you're feeling up to the task, you can also do some of the research and application process yourself.

  • Are all utility inventions patentable?

In short, no. A utility invention must be non-obvious, new, and useful in order to be patentable.

  • Are pending patent applications kept private?

Yes. The Patent Office keeps all patent applications secret until the patent has been granted. Granted patent applications are made public 18 months after the earliest filing date.

  • How long until my patent is issued?

The timeframe for getting a patent varies. Most utility patents are issued within one to three years of the non-provisional filing date.

  • How long will my utility patent last?

In the United States, a utility patent will expire either 17 years from the patent issue date or 20 years from the patent application filing date, whichever happens later.

If you need help finding utility patent cost and want legal assistance filing your patent, post a question on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to the site, each of whom are from top schools such as Yale Law and Harvard Law. Many also have backgrounds working with companies like Stripe, Twilio, and Google.