A utility patent will cost between $7,000 to $20,000. This patent cost estimate includes the short-term costs to prepare and file a utility patent application which gives you patent pending for your invention. Also, the estimate includes the long-term costs to examine the utility patent application to get the patent.
The short-term cost to prepare and file a utility patent application is about $5,000 to $10,000 on average. This is just for the utility patent application and to establish patent pendency of your invention. It does not include costs for examination. Here are the provisional patent application cost and the nonprovisional patent application cost.
The long-term cost is related to the examination of the utility patent application when the examiner at the USPTO researches the merits of your invention and decides to reject or allow your application for patent. This cost includes the cost to respond to an office action, pay an issue fee, etc. The examination cost will be around a few thousand dollars to $10,000.
The cost to prepare and file a patent application varies widely, as you can see if you do any sort of research on the web. The goal of this article is to help you understand the short-term costs (e.g., cost to prepare a patent application) and long-term costs (e.g., examination costs) to help you understand how to afford a patent by managing your patent legal fees. If you want help selecting a patent attorney, read more about it in Who can help you get a patent?
COST TO prepare and file a Utility patent application Plus examination costs
The diagram above shows the time frame at which the patent costs will be incurred. About 1/2 of the overall patent costs are incurred at the beginning of the process. The other half is incurred 9 months to 2 years later depending on whether a request for expedited examination of the patent application is requested. One other thing that the diagram shows is that inventors should not heavily focus on the overall cost when launching their products. Rather, inventors should focus on short-term cost of preparing and filing the patent application because that is the minimum cost needed to secure patent pendency type patent protection. The inventor can test market the product or invention during this period of patent pendency.
The high overall cost to get a patent can be discouraging especially for cost-conscious start-ups. Don’t be discouraged. The reason is that the more important cost to focus on is the smaller short-term cost to prepare and file the patent application (i.e., $5,000 to $10,000). The long-term costs for the examination can be delayed up to about 2 to 2.5 years after you file the patent application. (see diagram above) by first filing a provisional patent application and later filing the nonprovisional application without a request for examination. However, the short-term cost of preparing and filing the patent application cannot be delayed because this is the minimum needed to establish the patent pendency of your invention. Patent pendency gives you priority as of the filing date of the patent application. It also allows you to safely market your invention to others between the time period after you file a patent application until you finally get your patent, should one issue.
Between the time that you file a patent application and have to spend more money to examine your patent application, no significant legal fees are being incurred. You can use this time to market your invention to test viability. If your marketing shows that the invention isn’t really viable, then you most likely won’t be incurring downstream examination costs. You most likely will abandon your patent application. On the other hand, if your market testing of the product shows that customers love your product, then perhaps, this is the evidence that you need to commit to spending more money on the examination to secure the patent. Hence, the downstream, long-term patent costs should not be your focus early on when you are launching your product. The examination costs will be incurred much later and after you’ve had time to test market your invention.
In this regard, for most inventors, the cost to prepare and file a patent application (i.e., secure patent pendency) is more important because it is the minimum you need to spend to establish patent pendency and launch your product.
Read more about how the costs can fluctuate based on the strategy that you employ in Patent Cost Framework and Cash Flow.
Patent application cost factors
The actual patent cost to get a patent or secure patent pending status depends on the following factors:
Factor 1: Complexity of the invention
Factor 2: Business environment
Factor 3: Goals of the inventor
Factor 4: Experience level of the patent attorney
Many patent attorneys explain that the cost to prepare a patent application depends on the complexity of the invention. In part, this is a true statement but only a half-truth. Cost also depends on the other factors as well. In my experience, factors 2-4 listed above are also important, as explained below. You can estimate the cost of your patent application with the Patent Cost Calculator.
Factor 1: Cost depends on the complexity of the invention
In general, the cost to prepare a patent application depends on the complexity of the invention. The more complex the invention, the higher the patent cost, and vice versa. Put simply, patent attorneys would have to spend more time to include all of the details into the patent application for a complex invention.
|Simple Devices||Devices of Medium Complexity||Complex Devices|
|$5,000 to $8,000||$7,000 to $9,000||$8,000 to $10,000|
|1. No moving parts|
2. Operation of wrench
|1. Limited moving parts|
2. Some motion (e.g., adjustable head and operation of wrench)
|1. Complex internal mechanism
2. Reversable direction and operation of wrench
However, sometimes, the simplest of inventions may cost more than a complex invention. Let me explain. When an invention is complex, the patent attorney does not need to work as hard to set up the structure of the patent application. In contrast, when the invention is very simple, a patent attorney may need to take extra time to understand all of the nuanced benefits of the invention. Because the benefits are nuanced, the patent attorney needs to spend more time describing these aspects so that the true benefits and the structure of the invention do not get lost in the invention’s simplicity.
You wouldn’t want the patent examiner at the USPTO to think that the invention is so simple that anyone could have thought about it.
Factor 2: Cost depends on the business environment
The business environment of the invention should be taken into consideration when estimating the patent cost of the patent application to secure patent pendency. For example, new emerging tech (e.g., blockchain) might require a fuller disclosure and thus more time. For example, in blockchain technology, it would take more effort to explain how blockchain technology works which is a requirement in drafting a patent application for blockchain technology. In contrast, a new minor twist to old technology (e.g., belts) might require less to explain and thus less time and money.
Factor 3: Cost depends on the goals of the inventor
The goals of the inventor are probably the single biggest factor to patent costs. For example, if the inventor wants to secure as much patent protection on the invention as possible, this would make the task of preparing a suitable patent application significantly more difficult. The work involved to give the inventor what they want may involve:
- Describing the invention in multiple ways,
- Describing all aspects of the invention, and
- Presenting claims that might go over the limit covered by the basic government filing fee for a non-provisional patent application.
However, if the inventor would be willing to focus on the point(s) of novelty on their invention, then the costs can be much more reasonable.
Factor 4: Cost depends on the experience of the patent attorney
The patent attorney or company that you select to prepare the patent application for you will most likely be the most important factor in determining the cost to protect your invention.
You can categorize attorneys as belonging to three different groups:
- Large law firms
- Specialized patent law firms
- Solo practitioners
Large law firms will charge significantly more than specialized patent law firms. For most startups and mid-sized businesses, a large law firm is overkill. Large law firms will charge an exorbitant amount of money to work with them. In my opinion, the savings that the startup or mid-sized business can save by retaining a specialized patent law firm could be redirected into other business units or patenting more inventions.
Specialized patent law firms provide a nice balance between quality, patent cost, and service. These firms consist of more than a few patent attorneys. Specialized patent law firms have additional bandwidth so that the patent attorney that you retain can shift work to other patent attorneys within the group to provide timely and cost-effective legal services. The quality of a mid-sized intellectual property law firm is generally equal to the quality of larger law firms for the services that they provide. The cost of a mid-sized firm, although not as cheap as the cheapest solo practitioner, is competitive with that of a solo practitioner.
Solo practitioners have prices that range between very cheap to mid-range pricing. However, it may be that these solo practitioners are also working solo because of various reasons. Also beware of solo practitioners that appear to be specialized patent law firms when in actuality, they have a number of contract attorneys that do their work for them.
For a more detailed explanation, please read Who can help you to get a patent?
Online provisional patent application services
You can also have a low-cost online company prepare a patent application for you. These companies offer a low-cost option to attract inventors who have an understandable attraction to a low cost. In my point of view, you must be careful and determine if these low-cost provisional patent applications provide the quality that you need.
Let me explain. Not all provisional patent applications are of the same quality. Likewise, the same is true for non-provisional patent applications. To properly protect the invention in terms of patent pendency, the patent application needs to include the point of novelty of the invention. This is something that the patent office cannot and does not check for. If the point of novelty of the invention is not properly explained in the patent application, then even if the patent application passes the minimum standard of the USPTO, the application will not properly protect your invention. Others would be able to go around your patent.
Online companies charge significantly less than $5,000 to $10,000 for a patent application. However, these cheap patent applications do not include a comprehensive disclosure of your invention. In general, it has been my experience that these include a skimpy explanation of your invention. That is how they get the cost to prepare and file the patent application so low. You, as a layperson, would not know the difference between good quality versus poor quality work.
The cost must be balanced with the value
You can interview a number of patent attorneys to get an accurate measure of the price for the patent. However, the cost to prepare and file a patent application is not directly related to the value of the patent application. Just because two patent applications from two separate attorneys will cost the same does not mean that the quality of the patent applications produced by those two patent attorneys will be the same.
Let’s talk about the patent application itself. There are different ways to prepare a patent application. One way would be to provide a straightforward discussion and explanation of the invention. What would happen here is that the patent attorney would merely spend as little time as possible to think outside of the box to see the bigger picture of the invention. Even if the attorney spent as little time thinking outside of the box to see the big picture of the invention, he or she is providing a basic patent application. Other patent attorneys will try to immerse themselves into the invention to find additional benefits and features that the inventor themselves did not think about. They will also include these features in the patent application. Both attorneys can charge the same amount of money but both applications will not be of equal value. Obviously, the latter patent attorney will provide better value for the patent cost incurred by the inventor.
Unfortunately, inventors may not be able to understand or decipher which patent attorney they should retain. I was in a similar circumstance when I retained an attorney to help me prepare my will and set up my family’s trust. I interviewed two or three attorneys and asked for their pricing. Even though I scored high marks in law school and my wills and trusts class, my education did not prepare me to understand the nuts and bolts of preparing the will and setting up a family trust. The bottom line was that I was unable to determine which attorney provided the best value for the patent cost. However, my education did help in that I was able to make an educated guess as to which attorney could do the job at the lowest price. From that moment, I empathized with my clients – inventors better. Inventors are just like me. They don’t want to pay more than what they have to get what they need. I changed my practice in order to help inventors understand not only to give them what they want but also to let them understand what they need to properly secure patent protection for their invention.
Education is important in my family. When my parents immigrated from Korea in 1972, they spoke little English, but one thing that they taught us was that we must get an education. In an effort to educate inventors so that they can make better decisions, my belief is that they need to have a working knowledge of the patent system. Otherwise, how would they tell whether a patent attorney is providing good or bad advice? To this end, I’ve published my book Navigating the Patent System and provide numerous free resources on this blog to help inventors understand the patent process so that they can make smarter decisions, more cost-effective decisions for themselves.
Design patent application costs
Up to now, we’ve been discussing utility patent applications and patents. However, it’s also possible to secure a design patent on your product as well.
The cost to prepare and file a design patent application and get a design patent is significantly lower. The overall cost to get a granted design patent will be around $3,000 to $5,000. This article will not discuss the cost of a design patent.
Encouragement for inventors and startups
The above explanation of all of the costs involved in the patenting process can seem daunting. However, the basic strategy still remains the same. Usually, the inventor should or normally will bear the cost for preparing and filing a patent application to secure patent pending status. After the patent pending status is achieved, in general, there are no other significant patent costs until the examination of your patent application starts. This means that the cost that you should be primarily concerned about is the preparation costs, not the other cost mentioned above. I mentioned them in order to inform you they exist. However, the most important cost that you should be aware of is the cost to achieve patent pending status. That cost is usually between $5000 and $10,000 for many inventions. Do talk with your patent attorney on ways to cut down costs for the preparation of your patent application.
For more information, please read Highs and lows of the patent process.
Rev. 7/9/19, 7/10/19