After a new idea is born, you may ask yourself: “How much does it cost to file a patent?”
Patents cost somewhere between $750 – $40,000+ dollars… In this article we dive into the specifics.
Like most questions, the answer is only as good as the question that was asked.
So if you’re just asking, “How much does it cost to file a patent?”, then you’re actually going to get the USPTO fees that are required to pay the government as they prepare to file.
And don’t forget: just because you file a patent application doesn’t mean that it will be granted. Over 90% of all patent applications are rejected at least once.
A slightly better question is: How much does it cost to file a patent application?
To start, you can find a listing of USPTO prices for filing here. They provide different prices based on your entity size (keep reading for more information on the differences in entity sizes and how you can save money).
If you explore the link above, you’ll see that there are a lot of different types of patents you can file (like provisional, non-provisional, plant, design, continuation, PCT, or divisional, just to name a few). They all have different fees!
Although USPTO fees are an important part of understanding the cost outlay, they make up only a small part of the total investment when preparing and filing a quality patent application and seeing it through to issuance.
Now, the question becomes: How much does it cost to properly file a patent application?
Relatively speaking, the cost of a patent from start to finish is a considerable amount of money.
Keep reading to find a list of each expense and what it covers. This post will be a helpful resource for any innovator looking to take the next steps with a professed new invention.
The Time Value of Money
Something that will come up a lot in this discussion is time: your time, the attorneys’ time, the examiner’s time, prosecution time, and time in general.
I find it incredibly helpful when thinking about costs and expenses to keep in mind how much time and effort will be expended versus reward and, more importantly, the opportunity cost (meaning where you could have or should have spent your time) of doing other activities.
Your Time: Invention Conception
The first true up-front cost is the time and effort it takes for the inventor to conceive the invention. This is a major and essential part of the actual invention process.
While sometimes invention may seem spontaneous like the idea was conceived out of the blue, it often never is. An inventor is constantly brainstorming and looking for problems to solve all around them. While it may come more naturally to some, for others, they may have to work at it — sometimes for a very long time.
Being a problem solver takes critical thinking skills and a certain level of knowledge in a particular area. It can be said that it takes special training in order to even be able to spot problems as they arise.
Therefore, it’s this initial investment of time that should be considered as the first payment of money.
How much time and effort went into the initial testing, evaluating, failing, and observing before the lightbulb moment struck?
Your Time: Diligence
Most inventors know some patent law basics. At its heart, patent law provides exclusive rights to inventors of completely new devices, methods, processes, designs, and products.
The smart inventors realize that in order to turn that lightbulb moment into potential monetary gain, they need to first confirm their invention is indeed one of a kind.
Every inventor should take a second to think about the initial investment of time needed to do some preliminary research and diligence before talking with a patent attorney (or before telling anyone else for that matter).
Is it worth the time?
A better question to ask would be: How much work should you do when you have an invention or an idea that you think deserves patenting?
In most cases, an inventor will want to do some personal legwork to make sure the design is, by and large, something new. I highly recommend doing at the very least a quick Google or a Bing search for criteria, resources, and information about prior art.
I have an informative write-up on how you can do a great patent search in 6-steps here.
The short answer here is: yes!
It is well worth your time to do your initial research. The last thing you want to do is hire a professional to do a search for you, only to have them turn up with an obvious example of your invention having been published before.
To receive a patentability search opinion done by a professional, it can be as much as $5,000 (sometimes more) depending on the complexity of the invention. So yes – please don’t throw away $5,000 and do some of the initial research on your own.
Check out this video for an easy-to-follow patent search using Google you can do on your own.
Attorney’s Time: Patentability Legal Opinion
Once the initial diligence is done, it is time to approach a patent attorney. These costs can, of course, be easily broken down as well.
Without going into too much detail, when you hire a patent attorney to provide you with their legal opinion on patentability, they will not just perform a patent search. They will analyze your invention when compared to the latest court rulings, plus laws governing patent eligibility, novelty, and non-obviousness.
What you will end up paying the most for, ultimately, is their expert opinion (i.e. “You should file a US provisional patent application based on this disclosure.”), not the actual search itself.
While our firm (and a few others) does not charge hourly for up-front patent work (we charge on flat-fee basis), it is still instructive to break down the costs by time spent with the attorney.
Attorney’s Time: Initial Consultation
The initial consultation, while it can take many forms, generally takes between 30-60 minutes. The inventor and attorney will discuss the invention, the patent process, initial eligibility, and walk away with some suggested next steps to help them protect their invention.
At our firm, our patent attorneys bill at $495 per hour. So, a consultation as described above would generally cost between $250-500.
Before meeting with your attorney make sure to follow my “10 Tips for Inventors meeting with a patent attorney.”
A quick note about costs and fees:
I will quickly talk to you in general terms, as I don’t want this blog to be about our firm (Bold Patents). I want to try to educate you and grow your understanding and appreciation of the value you are receiving at each stage. This is because some lawyers and firms charge more or less or will provide “free” consultations with the idea of making up for it later (for example, by charging more for their services).
While all attorneys are beholden to charge fair and reasonable rates to their clients by ethical rules, the pace, amount, and timing of billings can vary a lot. Therefore, it can be easier to describe when value is being delivered so that you can better understand and appreciate the current (or eventual) cost to you at each step.
At this point, based on the information obtained from an attorney, it will be clear whether or not the subject matter at hand is at present patent-eligible or whether the attorney recommends a more informed, thorough and objectively done patentability search.
Attorney’s Time: Patentability Search
In my experience, I recommend conducting a patentability search to about 95% of my clients. The search focuses mainly on the novelty requirement to answer once and for all: is this invention new? Is it a step beyond where the current state of the art is now?
Another major reason to perform a patentability search is to help the attorney when drafting the patent application. To have a strong patent application, you will want to have clearly articulated what you’ve invented and specifically define how it is different from the prior art (or “previous publications”).
Without having performed the research to see what’s been done before, you won’t know the best way to describe your invention or the necessary details to include.
(Enough pitching the patentability search! I’ve said plenty about it. To read more about how to find out if your invention is patentable, click here.)
The time it takes to do a thorough worldwide patent search will vary depending on the invention complexity and area of technology.
A more simple mechanical device with few moving parts is likely to take the attorney far less time to get their arms around all potential prior art, whereas a more complex computer system that utilizes artificial intelligence and blockchain to verify goods along a supply chain is going to take quite a bit longer.
In these cases, attorneys fees are (or at least should be) proportional to how much work is involved. A patentability search for a simple mechanical invention starts around $2,000. A more complex software or method like the one described above could start at $5,000 and go up from there.
Then why the need to do a search up front? Why try to anticipate what the examiner is going to find?
My answer to this is simply one of economics. As I said, there is a considerable cost for the inventor or the business owner in getting the application completed and ready for submittal to the USPTO.
We will discuss the costs for preparing and filing a patent application below, but to give you a brief overview, an invention of medium complexity is going to cost around $10,000 to file a non-provisional patent application, and there are most likely many thousands of dollars that will be spent on developing, prototyping, fabricating, and marketing said invention.
If you forego the search and spent over $10,000, only to be told by the examiner that someone else has already patented your invention, you now have two major issues to deal with: (1) you cannot get a patent, and (2) you might be infringing someone else’s patent if you decide to go to market and sell the product – yikes!
Let’s look at the process step by step. This will give inventors a better idea on how to scale the costs for their own inquiry.
Attorney’s Time: Drafting the Patent Application
You’ve completed the patentability searching process and have found a result that you and your attorney agree is positive. Great! That means you’re ready to file your patent application.
You now have a few different options and need to decide whether to file a provisional, non-provisional, design, plant, or international application.
If the inventor or business owner has not done a lot of previous testing on their invention, or maybe they have not developed a prototype yet and the concept is still somewhat of a straw horse, it is acceptable to write the idea down and describe in an application.
However, it is highly recommended that an idea like this should be submitted through what is called a provisional application.
I recommend this type of application to inventors whose invention has not yet been created (i.e. no prototype). The reason for this is simply that if the concept has not yet been built out, it has not yet been tested, and is therefore likely to change once tests are conducted. In this case, it is very difficult to draft solid claims.
A provisional application is a less formal version of an application when compared to the non-provisional patent application. It does not require a particular format or explicit claims — the critical component of the non-provisional patent application.
The patent attorney will spend a large amount of their time assuring you that they completely understand the invention, and will oftentimes have to circle back with the inventor(s) to confirm their understanding of one or more concept involved.
The attorney will then pour over the patent search opinion (once completed) in order to decide which areas of the application to focus on (the novelty areas confirmed in the search), and which to skim over (the areas where prior art was found).
Lastly, the provisional application specification (the written description) and drawings are created by the attorney (and drafter). This is when you find language that describes the invention in as broad of terms possible, while fully describing one embodiment.
For less complex inventions, there is only so much that can be talked about in terms of physical description and methods of use. More complex inventions will take longer as each of their real or virtual steps involves multiple variables.
Attorney’s Time: Provisional Patent Application
The applicant (the inventor) can expect the typical fees on a provisional patent application to range from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the level of technical complexity.
Our firm provides a credit toward filing an application, if the inventor invested in a patentability search with us. That means the cost of the searching gets credited toward the attorney’s fees for the provisional application.
For example, if $2,000 was invested for a simple invention, only another $3,000 would be owed to have the provisional application filed by the attorney.
(We reward those that take bold steps and invest in doing research on their invention!)
Attorney’s Time: Non-provisional Patent Application
Let’s talk about the second type of application: the non-provisional patent application. (A quick side note: sometimes you may see me write “non-provisional” and sometimes I will write “nonprovisional”. There’s no rhyme or reason — they mean the same thing and you’ll come across both spellings!)
Assuming the initial patent search comes back positive, here are a few scenarios where we would want to file a non-provisional patent application:
- High-tech inventions: If you’re invention is at risk of being the next fad, while it will be fantastic wave to ride, it will not be long-lived (at least from the market research you’ve done). You should quickly seek a non-provisional application to help you get your patent issued faster. When it comes to the market, it’s all about timing, timing, timing. (And speaking of…)
- Timing: If you’ve already filed your provisional application and the 1-year priority window is closing soon, we need to get that non-provisional filed fast!
- Licensee or buyer: If you are working toward closing a deal with a licensee or buyer, and they are willing to close once you file a non-provisional – the let’s get it done!
A non-provisional application, as I mentioned previously, requires explicit claims. Although I cover claims very thoroughly in a great video here, I will touch on them one more time in this post. Claims are between 40% and 50% of the entire effort of a patent application.
Even though claims may only comprise of one, two, or three pages of what might be a fifty-page specification, the effort and care that is put into crafting those claims is considerable, and this craftsmanship is the true art of the patent attorney.
Non-provisional applications also have more formal requirements with regard to structure and filing, including an invention oath (one must furnish a sworn oath that they are the original and true inventor).
The patent office also requires the inventor to submit an information disclosure sheet that identifies all reference points, all prior art, and more or less all of the knowledge of the industry that the inventor and the attorney discovered while doing their patentability search.
That way, the examiners have all of the same information available to them that the inventor and attorney had at their fingertips when drafting the application.
Because it is the formal application that will be reviewed and examined by the USPTO, the cost for this is about twice that of provisional applications. At our firm, Bold IP, we charge between $10,000 and $20,000 for drafting a non-provisional application from scratch. However, if a provisional application was previously used, we will credit the provisional patent application (and search – if any) investment toward the fees.
For example, if, for a high-complexity invention, a patentability search and provisional patent application was filed for $10,000, our non-provisional patent application cost would be $20,000 (non-provisional) – $10,000 (provisional) = $10,000 total cost.
The main reason for this is that a lot of the work from that earlier filed provisional patent application can and will be used to complete the non-provisional application. Of course formalized claim sets, drawings and a revised specification are all part of the non-provisional.
Now, finally, the application is ready for submission to the USPTO.
USPTO Fees: Application Submittal
There is an updated website on USPTO.gov (you can find it here) that has everything (and more) that you may need to know on fees. However, what’s not on there is how to determine whether you are regular, small, or micro-entity.
- Regular entities are those applicants that are companies with 500 or more employees.
- Small entities are those with fewer than 500 employees.
- Micro-entities are those small entities that have only filed 5 or fewer patent applications and have a gross income of less than 3 times the mean poverty level in the United States depending on filing status.
From a high level, I tell inventors to anticipate spending $500-1000 on USPTO fees when they are filing a non-provisional patent application. Filing fees for a provisional patent application are far less ($70-$150).
Note: there are many many other fees that may come into play as a patent application is submitted. Some examples include: if there are additional claims beyond 20, if color drawings need to be submitted, if there is an expedited examination requested, or if there is an international/PCT application filed.
Attorney’s Time: Post-Filing
If the claims were done right, the language should be quite broad and reflect the intent of the inventor to achieve the most exclusivity possible for their work.
As a result, examiners will often respond by requiring the applicant to limit or modify their claim requests. Thus, the examiner will reject the application — and when they reject, they will issue what is called an office action.
In most instances, these office actions — letters or emails sent to the inventor and their attorney — need to be responded to within 2 to 3 months to prevent from having to pay additional fees.
The time it takes to prepare legal argument and amendments will depend on the size and complexity of the rejection, but oftentimes you can assume between 8 and 15 hours of work. A rough estimate would be about $3,000 per office action.
Even if the application is done exactly right, one can expect maybe 2 or even 3 office actions to go back and forth, with the attorney trying to argue on his client’s behalf in an effort to get the most possible rights.
Time well spent…
There is a lot of time (and money) that is needed to get your invention protected the right way. I hope not to scare anyone away from moving forward, but instead to open your eyes to the entire process from start to finish, so that you’re not caught off guard or intimidated as you move through this patent journey.
By breaking down the time investments into much smaller chunks (search, application, office action, and beyond), the whole process becomes much more manageable both intellectually and financially.
There you have it: all of the information that you will need at your disposal in order to appropriately ask the question, “How much does it cost to properly file a patent application?”
Hopefully, by now, you have a much better understanding of how the patent process works and why it is always better to ask that question specifically.
Remember when calculating the cost make sure to take into consideration:
- Your Time
- Attorney Time (Patent search, provisional, non-provisional, office actions)
If you would like more information on communicating with your patent attorney about patents, then we recommending reading our other article, 10 Tips for Inventors: Meeting With A Patent Attorney.
Tell us… what did you find most helpful about this article? Was there anything about patent costs that you wished that you knew earlier?
PS: Ready to go big and go bold! Click here to book your free consultation with us to get started!
Legal Note: This blog article does not constitute as legal advice. Although the article was written by a licensed USPTO patent attorney there are many factors and complexities that come into patenting an idea. We recommend you consult a lawyer if you want legal advice for your particular situation. No attorney-client or confidential relationship exists by simply reading and applying the steps stated in this blog article.