The final price tag on applying for a patent will vary and is based on fees from multiple sources. If you are considering filing for a patent, it is important to understand where these costs come from, and how to navigate them successfully.
Costs can be broken down into two categories:
- Fees charged by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
- Fees charged by patent professionals
Fees charged by the USPTO vary based on the size of the company filing the patent, the type of patent, the number of claims in the patent, and the number of pages in the patent application.
Fees for professionals come from patent searching, patent drafting, and patent drawings and illustrations.
How Much Does It Cost to Patent an Idea?
The cost of patenting an idea can range anywhere from $440 to over $15,000.
The minimum amount that can be spent to get a patent are the fees charged by the USPTO. The total cost increases as you use patent professionals to help navigate the patent process.
Patent professionals include patent searchers, patent drafters, patent prosecutors, and patent drawing professionals, and consultants. You can find a person or company to do each of these tasks, or you may use a full-service firm that will assist you from start to finish. Traditionally, firms charge based on the hours worked on your patent, which makes it a challenge to estimate their pricing. Many modern firms have begun to offer standardized rates for patent services.
The process of getting a patent is like a game of leapfrog. Each step of the way you only pay the cost for that step, and you can get out of the game at any time. For example, you may pay a professional to conduct a patent search before filing your application. If you find out that your idea has already been patented it would be a waste of time and money to continue the application process.
Patent Cost by Type of Application
The USPTO grants three types of patents (1) utility, (2) design, (3) and plant patents. The USPTO charges different fees for each type of application, with utility costing the most and design the least. A provisional patent can be filed for a utility patent.
Generally, companies charge more for drafting utility patents because they require more effort and are more difficult to get approved. The estimates provided below represent the costs from start to patent issuance and include search, drawing, drafting, and USPTO fees for an individual.
Filing a provisional patent will cost you at least $275. A provisional patent can be thought of as a placeholder for a real patent. Provisional patents are barebones applications that only include a description and drawings of the invention.
The purpose of a provisional patent is to secure an early filing date for your invention at a reduced price. A provisional patent also gives the applicant the legal right to say their invention is “patent pending.” A real patent application must be filed within 12 months of a provisional patent to get the benefit of the earlier filing date.
A utility patent will cost in the range of $3,200–$10,000-plus. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter. A utility patent is what one generally thinks of as an invention and must offer some functional benefit or solve a problem.
A design patent will cost in the range of $1,400–$8,000-plus. Design patents are granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. The protections afforded to a design patent only extend to the appearance of the design and not to any functional aspects of the design
A plant patent will cost in the range of $1,500–$6,000-plus. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant. Plant patents are the least frequently filed type of patent, so there are fewer patent attorneys specializing in plant patents.
Fees for Filing a Patent
Utility patent application cost ($):
|Type of Fee||Cost|
|Preliminary patent search||$500-$1000|
|Patent Attorney fees||$2000-$8000|
Preliminary Patent Search Fees
A thorough preliminary patent search will range from $500-$1000. A preliminary search is optional but highly recommended.
While examining your patent application the USPTO will search every publicly available database to find out if your idea has been done before. Anything about your invention that has been done before is called “prior-art.” Conducting a preliminary search will uncover the prior-art that will be used against you. A preliminary search will help you make an informed decision when answering the following questions.
- Is filing an application worth it?
- What can I not claim in my application?
- How is my invention different?
The information from the preliminary search will be used when writing your patent application to ensure yours is different from the prior-art. This information is also used to draft patent claims with strong protection. Because a patent search is so essential for a well drafted patent, doing it is recommended before filing your application. If the preliminary search shows that your invention has already been done, there is no need to waste time and money filing an application.
There are four mandatory fees that you will be charged by the USPTO:
- Filing fee
- Search fee
- Examination fee
- Issuance fee
The amount charged for each fee varies based on the patent type. Each of these fees are reduced if you are a business with less than 500 employees (considered a small-entity) and reduced even more if you are an individual (micro-entity). Individuals are disqualified from this discount if (1) they have already applied for 4 patents or (2) their income is 3 times the median household income.
The USPTO covers their entire budget using fees and they will halt the application process until the appropriate fee is paid.
Filing fees are due when you submit the application. Search and examination fees are due when the USPTO examines your patent application. If your application is approved, you must pay issuance fees before the patent will be granted. Fees are paid through an online portal on the USPTO website.
USPTO fees by patent and entity type ($)
Other fees the USPTO may charge include:
- Late fees
- Each additional claim (over 3)
- Each extra sheet of the application (over 50)
- Paper submissions
- Genetic patent submissions
- Re-examination or continued examination
- Application deadline time extensions
- Priority or expedited examination
Expect to spend anywhere from $2,000 to over $8,000 in attorney’s fees. You must use the services of a certified patent attorney or patent agent if you don’t submit the application yourself.
Traditional law firms will bill you in the range of $250-$400-plus per hour, depending on the location of the firm, the experience of the attorney, and their knowledge of the technological area. Modern law firms have begun to offer standardized pricing for patent services, rather than billing by the hour.
Because patent law is federal law, patent attorneys may represent you from anywhere in the United States. You may consider selecting an attorney located in your state if you want them to provide other legal guidance or wish to meet in person. Keep in mind that attorneys in large metropolitan areas or large law firms will likely have a higher rate than those in smaller towns or smaller law firms.
Drawing fees can range from $30 to over $200 depending on the complexity of the invention. Every patent application must include drawings of the invention. Drawings are typically done by a person with skill in graphic design software. The patent attorney drafting your application may prefer to work with a person they know and include the price in your bill. You may also find someone on your own to complete the drawings.
Cost of Maintaining a Patent
After you have received a utility patent, you must pay maintenance fees to keep the patent valid. Maintenance fees only apply to utility patents. Maintenance fees are charged to the owner of a patent at three different times (1) 3.5 years, (2) 7.5 years, and (3) 11.5 years after the date of application.
If maintenance fees are not paid the patent expires.
Maintenance fees by entity type ($)
Don’t forget that you are responsible for enforcing your patent. If someone copies the invention covered by your patent, you can sue them to stop and recover money damages. The cost of litigating a patent infringement lawsuit can be very expensive, costing even more than applying for the patent.
Sheldon received his training of the patent system at the United States Patent & Trademark Office. He works with universities and consultants to provide analytics and guidance for technology commercialization from patents.
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- USPTO (2021, June 25) USPTO fee schedule. Retrieved from https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/fees-and-payment/uspto-fee-schedule