This process can be costly, so the next question you may ask yourself is - “Do I need a patent lawyer? Can’t I just learn how to write a patent application and file it myself?” We will get to that in a moment but first - Did you know? Over 90% of patent applications are rejected at least once. To start searching for the cost of filing a patent application, you can find listings of USPTO prices for filing by clicking 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: Provisional Patent Non-provisional Patent Application or Utility Patent Plant Patent Application Design Patent Application Continuation Divisional PCT - International Patent How to Patent an App And More... 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. 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, so let's circle back to the question from earlier: Do I really need a patent lawyer? A patent is a defensive weapon. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer to file it, you probably won't be able to afford to hire a lawyer to defend it. With that said, it is important for any inventor to be aware of the full cost of a patent, and by the end of this article, you will. So keep reading! In this guide, I also provided a link to a free copy of my Inventor’s Guide to Patent Book (Normally $31 on Amazon). You can quickly grab it by clicking here! More of a visual learner? Check out this video with additional tips on what a patent costs. General Overview of Patent Cost To file a patent you could pay as little as $750 if you take the “do-it-yourself” approach, or upward to $40,000+ dollars if you have a complex invention like business software, automated systems, etc. The final cost depends on the complexity & quality of the patent attorney you work with. Here at Bold Patents, we encourage all clients to take the most “risk-averse” process in bringing their visionary idea to market by only spending money where it is needed. The graph below helps you understand: Where To Invest (Service): These are the different services you will need to invest in obtaining a patent on your invention. When To Invest: This section explains the best time to invest in that particular service as you bring your product to market. Risk of Investment: Here you learn the potential business risk associated with spending money on that service. How to Minimize Risk: In this section, we explain how to minimize the risk that is associated with that service. Estimated Investment Cost: This provides you the estimated cost of that particular service. Each section is more thoroughly explained in the remainder of this article. You can also speak with someone for free by giving us a call at 1-800-849-1913 or clicking here to book a free consultation. Understand Time Money Something that will come up a lot in this discussion is time: Your time The attorneys’ time The examiner’s time Prosecution time 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. If you want to take a little detour from patents and explore the economics of this concept, I find this is the best resource you can find to get a better understanding of the time value of money. 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 the value is being delivered so that you can better understand and appreciate the current (or eventual) cost to you at each step. Invention Conception & Diligence Cost 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?” For inventors looking for some help with this process I wrote up an article on “How to Invent Something in 10 Steps.” Do Your Diligence 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). 1. Marketability Is there a market for this invention? Is it solving a problem that people are willing to pay money for? A quick and easy way to determine this is to ask yourself if there are similar products trying to solve that particular problem. Say you are inventing an innovative way to do brain surgery. Brain surgery is already a thing. Therefore, if your way works it will most likely have a product market fit. Say you are inventing a unique device that protects your phone better than any other case. There are already millions of phone cases sold per year so if your case does what you say it will do… well you probably will have people who want to purchase it. Another, fun tool you can use is to see what the Google Search volume is for terms related to what you are looking to sell using the Google Trends tool. Below, I did a quick search on “fortnite” a popular video game. As you can see the game was on a huge rise in 2018 but recently besides one spike has been on the decline. Therefore, if you have an invention related to fortnite, although it might still be successful you would be competing against a downward trend in the marketplace. Of course, some inventions are truly revolutionizing like the telephone, AC/HVAC, etc. and you could argue that their current isn’t a market but after you invent your product there will be. However, the telephone replaced speaking in-person and the AC replaced humans fanning ourselves with paper fans. Is your invention replacing something that already exists and making it better? After you have determined your invention and marketability potential it is time to determine it’s patentability. 2. Patentability & Basic Search If you prefer to save time you can book a free consultation and purchase a low-cost patentability assessment by clicking here. If you have time and would like to save money you can follow our guide “Is My Idea Patentable” by clicking here. In short the guide talks about how eligible patients need: Utility or Immediate Usefulness Novelty Non-Obviousness And the four different types of inventions that can obtain a patent. Process Machine Manufacture Composition of matter After you have determined patentability you can then move into doing a basic search or giving us a call to verify your findings. I have an informative write-up on how you can do a great patent search in the blog articles below: How to do a Patent Search in 6-Steps Advanced Guide To Google Patent Search 1-Hour Tutorial Video by Patent Attorney on Doing a Proper Search How to do a Design Patent Search 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. As you will learn below, after you have done your initial research in determining marketability & patentability it is still highly recommended you seek out an attorney to verify your findings. When you hire a patent attorney to determine patentability and do a search you are not only paying for the search but most importantly the legal opinion. Someone who has seen hundreds of applications get accepted and denied. They will provide you the insight you need to understand the risk moving forward. Make sure to grab my free book “Inventors Guide to Patents” by clicking here for more detailed information. Initial Consultation & Eligibility Expect To Spend Between $200 - $400 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. 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. We offer specials for new inventors from time to time. If you are interested, make sure to mention to the advisor on the phone you read this article. They might just give you a little discount. ;) Before meeting with your attorney make sure to follow my “10 Tips for Inventors meeting with a patent attorney.” Patent Search and Opinion Cost Expect To Spend Between $500 - $5,000 In my experience, I recommend conducting a patentability search for 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 patent search you can read my blog article here. The cost and 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. Low Complexity Patent Search: $500 - $3,000 Medium Complexity Search: $1,000 - $4,000 High Complexity Search: $2,000 - $6,000 In addition, the costs can range from as low as $500 using discount legal services or hiring a non patent attorney. However, as you can see in the graph below. The search is such a crucial part to ensuring you have a successful patent that we highly recommend you don’t fall short here. You need to understand the risk in moving your invention forward since the search is one part of the end cost. Why do a patent search? 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 submission 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 (2) you might be infringing someone else’s patent if you decide to go to market and sell the product – yikes! In short! Do a patent search. If you are interested in having us help you, you can book a free consultation by clicking here. Patent Costs After Your Search 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. Now what? You now have a few different options and need to decide whether to file a: Provisional Patent Application Non-provisional Patent Application Design Patent Application Plant Patent Application International Patent 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 concepts 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. Provisional Patent Cost Expect To Spend Between $3,000 - $10,000 The applicant (the inventor) can expect the typical fees on a provisional patent application to range from $3,000 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!) Below is an image showing you the advantages of having a patent attorney help with the filing. Non-provisional Patent Application Cost Expect To Spend Between $5,000 - $40,000 Let’s talk about the second type of application: the non-provisional patent application. 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 your invention is at risk of being the next fad, it will not be long-lived (at least from the market research you’ve done). You should immediately file a non-provisional application to help you get your patent issued faster. 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 then get it done! A Non-Provisional Application, 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 Patents, 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 Filing Fees Patent Cost 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. Generally speaking: 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. Design Patent Cost So, the most important thing to remember about design patents is that what you own at the end of the day is the 3D appearance of the object, not what it does (which is what utility patents cover), but instead what it looks like. Therefore, the job of a patent search will still rely on actual words and phrases to narrow in on specific shapes and designs. A search will help to determine whether the shape itself of your article of manufacturer is worth a design patent for. Design Patent searches costs vary between $2,500 - $5,000. Price ranges for a design patent application range from $3,000 - $6,000. An examiner will be assigned to the application, and there is a high likelihood that additional fees will be required in order to fully respond to the examiner’s rejection/objection of the patent application. The major complications of a design patent application are not long paragraphs of description or complex claim language, but instead the DRAWINGS and how difficult it is to capture the shape of the article. Lower complexity shapes usually are non-movable simple components with clean edges - think screwdriver, eyeglasses, bowling pin. Medium complexity shapes are one or two moving parts with complex curves, shapes, and surface textures - think prosthetic device, flip phone, socket wrench. High complexity designs are shapes that require cut-views, inner and outer shells/cases/cavities, patterns, detailed surface textures, and multiple angles to capture the entire 3D ornamentation. Think of clothing, jewelry, watches, interior decor, automotive wheels. If at all possible, you’ll want to consider filing a utility application if the functionality is novel. International Patent Cost The cost of filing an international patent application is just the beginning of the work. The real work (and financial outlay) lies in the commercialization and enforcement work in the various countries you hold rights in. In other words, there is no such thing as an “international patent”. You actually file an international placeholder, which is called the Patent Cooperation Treaty filing. This reserves the right for you to then later file in the several countries that are a part of the treaty. There are efficiencies and benefits to using this PCT, but you still have the burden and cost of filing in the foreign country under those foreign rules, and therefore hiring foreign counsel to accomplish the same thing you have done in the US. So, you can assume that the cost of a foreign patent application is on-par with a US patent application. As you saw above, the total cost of that could be $10,000 - $40,000 per patent. There are hefty USPTO fees that go with a PCT filing, and depending on the size of your entity range from around $2,000 - $5,000. An examiner will be assigned to the application, and there is a high likelihood that additional fees will be required in order to fully respond to the examiner’s rejection/objection of the patent application. Many US businesses/inventors leverage their ability to file overseas in a licensing play. Meaning, they license the rights to those foreign jurisdictions without having to incur the costs of filing - and allow the party licensing the rights to follow through with that. International patents are complex, If you have any questions please book a free consultation. Plant Patent Cost A unique variety of plant species is an incredible find, and while the requirements for getting a plant patent are a bit different than utility patent applications, the amount of work is about the same, therefore the cost is the same in terms of legal fees. A plant patent application must include a full botanical description which must include the chemical and molecular composition of the plant species. This is very similar to the utility patent application requirement for a detailed description that enables a person of ordinary skill in the art to be able to make and use the invention. Much like a utility or design patent application, prior to filing, we will want to conduct a detailed patent search and provide an opinion on patentability. These patentability searches typically range from $2,500 - $5,000 depending on the complexity. We classify plant patents as highly complex because of their sophisticated botanical descriptions and difficulty in searching, they are usually on the higher end of that spectrum. Generally, the plant patent cost will be between $10,000 - $40,000. This will cover the complete specification, claims, and drawings (which are usually pictures for plant patents). Also, note that there is no such thing as a “provisional” plant patent application - so the search will determine patentability and then you’ll move forward with a nonprovisional plant patent application. Divisional Patent Cost A divisional patent application is one that is split off of a parent application as part of a response to a restriction requirement by a USPTO patent examiner. A restriction requirement is an office action issued by the examiner which states that the patent application (in the examiner’s eyes) is actually more than one invention! This violates the rule that a patent application can only contain one invention. Hence, the restriction office action requires that the inventor pick which invention (and specific claims) they want to move forward with on their parent/primary patent application. This means that with an original patent application with 20 claims, the examiner may say that Claims 1-11 are one invention, claims 12-15 are a second invention, and claims 16-20 are a third. Therefore, the inventor must decide which “Species” or “invention” they want to proceed with under the parent/primary patent application. Assuming the inventor chooses Claims 1-11 to proceed with first, the inventor then has the option to file a divisional application on either claims 12-15 ori 16-20 invention. The trick here is that a divisional application sometimes requires a larger or revised specification, and also includes further definition around the claims. For example, the claims 12-15 (only 4 total) should be expanded into 20 (which is the max allowed without additional fees) in order to capture the most of the second invention. Each divisional patent application will require an additional attorney fee ranging from $5,000 - $10,000. As mentioned, a second divisional could be filed in a similar way covering Claims 16-20. With each additional parallel filing, you will be incurring additional prosecution cost. Lastly, as you’ll see below in the “Post Filing & Patent Actions Cost” below - there will be an examiner assigned to each divisional application, and there is a high likelihood that additional fees will be required in order to fully respond to the examiner’s rejection/objection of the divisional patent application. Continuation Patent Cost A continuation is much like a divisional, in that it is a child of and most come from a parent patent application. Different from a divisional, a continuation is filed optionally when additional (new) claims are sought for an invention. There are two flavors: continuations and continuation-in-parts (sometimes called CIPs). The regular continuation applications are those that do not add new “subject matter”, but seek new claims that were not considered when the patent application was initially filed. This usually happens when an inventor has something in mind for the application of their invention, and during: Testing, Implementation, Customer feedback, New application/version of their invention is discovered If this is true, then the continuation can share the same priority date with the original filing, and therefore is zero risk of another inventor having come up with the improvement since filing. However, more often than not, the improvement/change/new version does contain “new matter” for which there is no basis or enablement in the originally filed specification. So, the inventor will not be able to claim priority back to the date of the original (parent) patent application date. There is a (small) risk that another inventor filed a patent application on the new improvement/version. In these cases, as you probably guessed, a CIP must be filed in order to identify the new matter and new claims being sought for protection. Lastly, as you’ll see below in the “Post Filing & Patent Actions Cost” below - there will be an examiner assigned to each continuation application, and there is a high likelihood that additional fees will be required in order to fully respond to the examiner’s rejection/objection of the continuation patent application. If you have any questions please book a free consultation. Post Filing & Patent Actions Costs 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 a 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. In Conclusion 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) USPTO If you would like more information on communicating with your patent attorney about patents, then we recommend 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 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.