TABLE OF CONTENTS
- When Do You Need to Pay for a Patent?
- What Goes Into Patent Costs? A Patent Cost Breakdown
- How Much Does It Cost to Get a Patent?
- Should I Save Money by Doing It Myself or Should I Hire a Patent Attorney?
- Patent Your Idea to Protect Your Intellectual Property
Patent cost fees average $900 if you do it yourself and range about $6,000 to $12,000 if you hire an attorney.
We’ll break down your fees and provide some cost estimates. Here’s what you need to know about patent costs so you can plan your budget before you prepare your application.
When Do You Need to Pay for a Patent?
What does it cost to patent an idea? Before estimating costs, you might first wish to consider whether you truly need to pay for a patent. To answer this, it will help to understand the difference between patents, trademarks and copyrights, the 3 major categories of intellectual property rights granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The differences between these protections can be summarized briefly:
- Patents protect the rights to inventions, such as products or processes
- Trademarks protect the rights to text and images associated with your product or service
- Copyrights protect works you have authored or coauthored
So if you have a product or process you want to protect, you need a patent. But if you’re wondering how much does it cost to patent a business name or how much does it cost to patent a name for a product, the answer is you need a trademark instead of a patent. If you’re trying to protect a creative piece of intellectual property such as a book or software program, you need a copyright.
What Type of Patent Do You Need?
If your intellectual property is an invention that calls for a patent rather than a trademark or copyright, you need to determine which type of patent you need. There are 3 types of patents. You will need to determine which of these categories applies to your invention.
The 3 types of patents are:
- Utility patents, issued to protect original processes, machines, products (technically termed as articles of manufacture) or chemical or physical combination of materials (termed a composition of matter)
- Design patents, issued for new ornamental designs for articles of manufacture
- Plant patents, issued for plants that have been genetically engineered
Utility patents are the most common kind of patent. Most people who use the term “patent” are referring to utility patents.
Utility patents require periodic maintenance fee payments to stay in force, and even with these payments, all patents are only good for a limited time before they expire. You must pay a maintenance fee to maintain the force of a utility patent after 4, 8 and 12 years. Utility patents and plant patents expire 20 years after you file them.. Design patents expire 15 years after issuance.
Does Your Invention Need a Patent?
Even if your product is an invention that falls into one of the categories above, you still need to evaluate whether it truly calls for a patent. To do this, you should consider:
- Business value: Does your invention provide enough of a competitive advantage that protecting it so other companies can’t copy it would benefit you financially? For example, if your invention is only slightly more efficient than what others are already using, it might not be worthwhile to invest in a patent.
- Uniqueness: Is your invention innovative and nonobvious enough that it represents a genuinely unique improvement on what is already available on the market, and not something anyone with common sense could discover on their own? For example, if you tried to patent a combination of 2 well-known software features into 1 app, you might face difficulty because anyone familiar with the original features could have easily stumbled upon their combination.
- Return on investment: Do your sales projections indicate that selling your invention will yield a profitable return on investment?
If your invention meets all these criteria, you might benefit from investing in a patent.
What Goes Into Patent Costs? A Patent Cost Breakdown
How much does it cost to patent an idea? There are 8 main types of fees involved in the patent process:
- Patent search fees
- Attorney fees
- Provisional patent fees
- Drawing fees
- Filing fees
- Examination fees
- Post-allowance issue fees
- Maintenance fees
The first 7 types of costs are associated with the process of initially acquiring your patent, while maintenance fees are associated with keeping your patent in force. We’ll first describe what each of these patent cost components goes to pay for before providing expense estimates for each.
1. Patent Search Fees
A patent search is a review of existing patents to verify that your invention doesn’t duplicate any existing invention which has already been patented. You can do a patent search in any of 3 ways:
- Do it yourself
- Pay the USPTO to do it for you
- Hire an attorney who specializes in intellectual property
Doing it yourself doesn’t incur a direct fee, but it can be a lengthy process, costing you time. It also runs the risk that your application may be rejected if you make a mistake. An attorney will do the most thorough patent search, and will also cost the most.
2. Attorney Fees
If you hire an attorney to do your patent search, attorney fees typically become the most expensive part of the patent process. In addition to assisting with patent searches, patent attorneys can also assist with tasks such as filing your application paperwork correctly and negotiating with the USPTO on your behalf.
You can opt to mitigate the fee of hiring an attorney by hiring a patent agent, also known as a patent practitioner, rather than a patent attorney. Both patent attorneys and patent agents must be certified by the USPTO and can assist you with doing a patent search and submitting your application. However, agents aren’t attorneys qualified to perform legal tasks, such as litigating your case before the USPTO if a complication in your application arises. This reduced scope of expertise makes them less expensive than patent attorneys.
Note that both patent agents and attorneys may specialize in certain types of patents, such as software patents, for example. Look for a professional experienced with the type of invention you’re trying to patent.
3. Provisional Patent Fees
A provisional patent application (PPA) is a preliminary type of patent application that provides patent protection for your intellectual property for a year while you are preparing to file for a full (nonprovisional) patent. If you file for a PPA and then file for a nonprovisional patent before the year is up, your patent protection dates from the time you filed your PPA. If you don’t file for a nonprovision patent, you lose this benefit.
Filing for a PPA is an optional step in the patent application process. A PPA costs less than a nonprovisional patent because the application process is simpler. This can make it useful for an inventor who wants temporary protection while they are perfecting an invention, developing a marketing plan or finding financing resources.
4. Drawing Fees
If drawings are necessary to understand your invention, you must submit drawings with your patent application. These drawings must meet specifications set by the USPTO. Unless you already have the necessary equipment and skill set, this may require an investment in drawing software or hiring a professional draftsperson.
5. Filing Fees
When you submit your patent application, you must pay a filing fee to cover the processing of your application.
6. Examination Fees
Before your patent application is accepted, it must be reviewed by an official examiner who determines whether your invention is eligible for a patent and whether your application is in order. Based on their initial determination, your application process may require additional steps. There is a fee for the initial examination as well as any follow-up steps required.
7. Post-Allowance Issue Fees
If the USPTO decides to allow (approve) your patent, you must pay a post-allowance (post-approval) fee known as an issue fee. This goes toward covering the cost of printing and publishing the official announcement of your patent, along with associated administrative costs.
8. Maintenance Fees
To keep utility patents in force, you must pay maintenance fees after 4, 8 and 12 years. These fees are due 6 months prior to these deadlines, with a late fee added for payments made within the 6-month period and a petition fee if you request a payment delay.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Patent?
After all these costs are taken into account, how much does it cost to apply for a patent? The official USPTO fee schedule provides detailed guidelines which include fees covering special situations.
In general, USPTO fees have standard rates with 50% discounts for small entities (such as businesses with fewer than 500 employees) and 75% discounts for micro entities (small entities that haven’t previously filed more than 4 applications, don’t exceed gross income limits and are not licensing partners with larger entities).
A line-time breakdown for the cost to file a patent in the utility category runs as follows:
- Provisional patent application fees: $300 standard fee, $150 for small entities, $75 for micro entities
- Patent search fees: $700 if you pay the USPTO ($350 for small entities and $175 for micro entities)
- Patent attorney or agent fees: $300 to $1,000 per hour depending on the complexity of your invention and what legal services are required, total costs typically ranging from $5,000 for simple inventions to $16,000 or more for highly complex ones
- Drawing fees: $75 to $150 per page if you hire a professional draftsperson
- Basic filing fees: For paper filings, $320 standard fee, $160 for small entities, $80 for micro entities; for electronic filings, $80 for small entities and waived for micro entities
- Examination fees: $800 standard fee, $400 for small entities, $200 for micro entities
- Post-allowance issue fees: $1,200 standard fee, $600 for small entities, $300 for micro entities
These fees are for utility patents. Costs vary for other types of patents, as broken down in the USPTO’s fee schedule.
You may incur additional fees if your patent application runs into any barriers which require follow-up action. For example, appealing a patent rejection will increase your patent application cost.
When these expenses are totaled, the average cost of a patent ends up being $900 if you do it yourself and between $6,000 and $12,000 if you hire a patent attorney, according to an analysis of quotes by professional service provider Thervo.
In addition to these fees for acquiring a patent, maintenance fees for utility patents run as follows:
- First maintenance fee, due after 3.5 years: $2,000 for large entities, $1,000 for small entities, $500 for micro entities
- Second maintenance fee, due after 7.5 years: $3,760 for large entities, $1,880 for small entities, $940 for micro entities
- Third maintenance fee, due after 11.5 years: $7,700 for large entities, $3,850 for small entities, $1,925 for small entities
Additional maintenance fees are incurred for late payments within a 6-month time frame or for petitions for delay of payment.
Should I Save Money by Doing It Myself or Should I Hire a Patent Attorney?
If you’re concerned about the cost of a patent attorney, doing it yourself may seem to be a cost-saving option. Many inventors do successfully submit their own patents. This can indeed save money.
However, there are several drawbacks:
- You have to spend more time doing your own patent search and paperwork
- You are more likely to make a mistake in your application, which can raise the risk of your application being rejected or costing additional fees
- If your patent is not approved, you will face difficulty navigating the complex legalities of the USPTO appeals process without experience in this area
- Even if you get your patent approved, if you haven’t done a professional job of preparing your application, it may not cover all the protection you need
These disadvantages tend to outweigh the benefits of trying to prepare your own patent application. Most patent applicants employ the services of a patent attorney or agent, says the USPTO.
Patent Your Idea to Protect Your Intellectual Property
The patent process can be expensive, but when you consider the potential profits your invention can generate, it represents a worthwhile investment.
For best results, invest in a patent attorney. You can probably expect to invest in excess of $6,000. If you require financing to cover the costs of your patent search, legal fees and application expenses, consider applying for a small business financing option such as a business line of credit.