Updated: January 20, 2022
The cost for a utility patent can be as low as $900 for a micro-entity to $2400 for a large entity. That is if the inventor does all of the work. If you hire a patent attorney, then the cost to get a utility patent can be as high as $20,000 or more.
However, the better question is “what is the lowest cost for a quality utility patent or patent application?.
So, how much does a quality utility patent or patent application cost? The approximate cost for a quality utility patent application is about $7000 to $15,000. After filing, you will spend about $2,000 to $10,000 more on examination. The total cost will be about $17,000 to $25,000. The exact price will vary based on who you hire and the complexity of the invention.
Let’s dive in.
The cost estimates given above are the amount of money you should have on hand and be willing to spend to have a patent application prepared and examined to get a patent. If you aren’t willing to spend this much money on your patent, I recommend that you not start the process because you will be giving up too soon and won’t know whether you could have gotten the patent or not.
Patent Cost Calculator
The above calculator is an estimate of costs.
Patent Cost Factors
- Mechanical inventions include consumer products, industrial machinery, tools. However, they do not have any electronics or software.
- Electrical inventions include circuits, devices with a circuit board. However, they do not include any software.
- Software inventions are programs that can be run entirely on a computer. No outside hardware is required.
- Combination inventions are ideas that have software, electronics and mechanical components (e.g., display).
- Utility patent protects functional features.
- Design patent protects looks of the product.
- A provisional patent application is designed to delay examination costs. In doing so, you will also delay the grant of any patent.
- A nonprovisional patent application enters the queue for examination. It normally takes about 18 months till the first examination occurs.
- Large entity: everyone is a large entity unless you qualify as a small entity or a micro entity.
- Small entity: A small entity is an entity with less than 500 employees including part time employees. If you are close to the 500 mark, then pay large entity fees. Otherwise, it may jeopardize the validity of any patent if you inadvertently go over the 500 mark but still pay small entity fees. Small entities pay 50% of the government fee compared to the large entity.
- Micro entity: A micro entity is an entity that is a small entity, plus has filed less than four patent application and reported less than 3 times the median income in the United States. Currently, you have to at least make less than $184,116 per year.
If you license your patent pending or patent to a larger entity, then you must pay the entity fee matching the larger entity.
An easy way to determine if your invention is simple or complex is to look at the number of moving parts.
- Simple inventions have no moving parts.
- Medium complexity invention may have one moving part.
- Complex inventions have multiple parts cooperating with each other.
If you've drawn up your invention in a CAD program, then you should have a good idea of the number of drawing sheets for you invention. For simple inventions, you can estimate about 1-4 figures. For medium complexity inventions, you can estimate 5-10 figures. Complex inventions would require more than 10 figures. Each figure is generally one sheet.
If you file a PPA, you cannot expedite its processing. A PPA is never examined and thus there is no reason to expedite its processing. If you file a NPA, then you can expedite the examination. Under normal circumstances, a NPA is examined 18 months after it is filed. Under expedited processing, the NPA is examined in about 4-6 months.
Patent Cost Estimates
The government charges fees based on your entity size.
Most of the cost if you hire a patent attorney is based on attorney fee.
Drawing costs will be around $500 to $700 for most inventions.
The cost for a PPA is slightly lower than the Cost for NPA. Many will ask why. Simply put, a patent application can cost anything you would like it to cost. The real difference is in the quality of the patent. Will it give you the patent pendency type patent protection that you expect that it would give you. As such, to get the same protection in a PPA as a NPA, you have to spend the time to write up a full disclosure of the invention. In that case, the cost of the PPA is close to the cost of the NPA.
Because I'm not wasting your time and money preparing a skimpy PPA, the cost for the upgrade is not too much. Basically, I'm just filling in the blank sections of the patent application which was not required when the PPA was filed.
Cost for NPA = Cost for PPA + Cost to upgrade to NPA
This is the cost for an attorney to respond to the office action rendered by the examiner.
Total cost for patent = Cost for NPA + Examination cost
If you want to know whether it is worth it to file a cheap patent application, read my article: Provisional Patent Application: A Cheap Alternative?
What does a QUALITY patent or patent application look like?
Before we dive into the discussion of costs, let’s talk about quality. If you search for a “cheap patent application” in Google, you will get a lot of hits on google with quotes lower than the costs that I mentioned above. However, those low-cost patents are generally of dubious quality. How do I know? Some of my clients previously used those types of services.
The quality of a patent refers to different aspects of the patent. But, in general, it refers primarily to the ability of the patent to stop your competitors from designing around your patent to effectively compete against you without infringing on your patent. For broad patent protection, the patent should cover the point of novelty of the invention. Otherwise, it would be easy to get around your patent.
Unfortunately, no computer program exists that can analyze whether a patent gives you broad or narrow protection. Life isn’t that simple. Some patent attorneys do a better job at it than others.
Expensive does not always mean high quality
Quality and cost have a direct relationship with each other. In general, very cheap patents have very low quality. However, very expensive patent applications don’t necessarily mean that the patent is of very high quality. The quality between a mid-priced and a high-priced patent might be equal to each other. Why? As you go up in price, there is a point of diminishing returns based on what you want to get done. As the graph below illustrates, as the cost goes up the quality remains fairly the same.
Why is that? It is because, at the expensive end of the spectrum, you may be paying for services that you don’t need.
Let me explain. Patents cost a lot more when you retain a large law firm (more than 100 attorneys) to get your patent. In some situations, these high expenses are justified. Let me give you a few examples. If you need a person with a Ph.D. to understand your invention, then you should hire a large law firm. They attract specialized technical expertise that is required to get this kind of work done. You might need 100 patent applications filed next month. Well, a large law firm has the human resources to can get that done for you.
Well, if you don’t need those resources available to you, then you don’t need to pay large law firm prices. You can use a smaller law firm that provides the same degree of quality.
Should you hire a patent attorney?
Yes, you should hire someone to help you through the patent process. It is too nuanced to do it yourself properly.
You have three options when you hire a patent attorney.
You can hire three types of law firms: solo practitioner, a dedicated intellectual property law firm, and a large general practice law firm. A solo practitioner is one that works by themselves to get work done. A dedicated intellectual property firm is a group of about 5 to 30 patent attorneys that limit their practice primarily to intellectual property matters. A large general practice law firm is one with hundreds of attorneys with many different specialties.
So, which one should you choose? In my opinion, each one has its pros and cons. My law firm is in the middle of the two extremes. We are a dedicated intellectual property law firm. I had an opportunity to go to a large law firm but decided not to because of the value proposition to clients. I’m letting you know so that you understand the bias of the article.
In my opinion, I would tend to shy away from the solo practice patent attorney. The operations are much smaller. The redundancies to prevent failure is minimal. Some solo practice patent attorneys are great. However, it would be hard to identify the great ones from the mediocre ones.
I’m discounting patent agents. They can’t advise on agreements and contracts. They can’t legally advise you on all areas of patent law.
Large law firms are great if you have hundreds of patent applications to file in a short time. They have the human resources to get the job done. Also, if you need a patent attorney with a particular doctoral science degree, then the large law firms have enough business to attract that type of personnel. However, for the vast majority of startups and mid-sized businesses, the medium-sized boutique patent law firm does fairly well for you. The pricing is average. They also are large enough to have the redundancies and support system so that you are protected.
Breakdown of patents cost
Because the cost for a patent application and patent is so much, you must be asking why a patent costs so much.
To answer why it costs so much, let’s look at the breakdown of costs to get a quality patent? The patent costs include:
- Government fees
- Drawing fees
- Attorney fees
For a quality patent, the majority of the cost is the attorney fees. Here is a breakdown of the fees so that you can see them for yourself.
The basic government filing fee for a nonprovisional patent application is as follows:
- Micro entity filing fee: $400
- Small entity filing fee: $800
- Large entity filing fee: $1,600
If all goes smoothly and you receive a first action Notice of Allowance, then the only other fee that you would have to pay for is the issue fee. The governmental issue fee for a nonprovisional utility patent application is as follows:
- Micro entity filing fee: $250
- Small entity filing fee: $500
- Large entity filing fee: $1000
The drawing fees are typically about $500 to $1000. They usually run around $40 to $150 per drawing page.
The rest of the cost is for attorney fees. Based on simple math, about 80% to 90% of the patent and patent application cost is from attorney fees.
Is it worth it to hire a patent attorney?
A good patent attorney is worth the money. I’ve seen many transferred-in cases and most of them are not of good quality. Just because you paid money for your patent or patent application, it doesn’t mean that you have a quality patent or patent application. The quality of a patent application can depend on many different factors. For example, does it accomplish what you would like it to do? Some may want a patent just to have a patent. Others need to have a patent that can be used to stop competitors.
How much does a patent cost for a mobile application?
The cost for a patent on a mobile application will be about $15,000 to $25,000. The cost depends on the complexity of the mobile application and also other factors.
How much does it cost to patent an idea worldwide?
A worldwide patent does not exist. You can, however, reserve the right to get a patent in most developing nations by filing a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application. The PCT application covers most developing and developed countries except for Taiwan and a few South American countries. If you would like to seek patent protection in about 35 countries having a large Gross Domestic Product, that will cost you about $90,000.
What is a poor man’s patent?
A poor man’s patent is a way to reserve your right to establish a priority date. The myth is that you can mail a description of the invention to yourself through the United States Postal Service. Since a government agency stamped the mail date on the envelope, you can prove that you had the idea as of the mail date. Unfortunately, this cannot work for multiple reasons. The most recent reason is that the United States transitioned from a first to invent rule to a first inventor to file rule. Under the first to invent rule, the person that invented first got the patent. I’m greatly simplifying the rule, but that is the crux of the rule. Under a first inventor to file rule, because you mailed it to yourself and didn’t file the patent application with the USPTO (the United States Patent and Trademark Office), you did not establish a priority date. You had to file the description of the invention with the patent office, not just mail it to yourself.
I invite you to contact me with your patent questions at (949) 433-0900. Please feel free to forward this article to your friends. As an Orange County Patent Attorney, I serve Orange County, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego, and surrounding cities.