How Much Does a Patent Cost?
Oscar Wilde once said that cynic is someone who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. We, of course, do not want you to become too cynical about anything patent-related, but we do believe that it can be beneficial to get a clearer picture in advance of the general patent cost involved in filing a patent application, so an informed decision can be made about the potential value of obtaining a patent.
How Much Does Filing a Patent Application Cost ?
The answer to this question is, of course, “it depends.”
Costs can range from a few hundred dollars for small, bootstrapping individual inventors who are using budget tools and services for relatively simple inventions all the way up to thousands of dollars (and even tens of thousands of dollars) for more complicated or technically complex inventions.
However, there are three areas of patent cost that every patent applicant would be wise to take into consideration.
1) USPTO Fees
For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the costs involved in filing for a patent in the United States of America. Other countries, of course, have their own patent fees and patent fee systems.
Generally speaking, there is no escaping these patent fees when it comes to getting a patent in America, and the complete list of the USPTO fee schedule can be found here.
The first thing that should be noted is that the USPTO divides its patent fees into three tiers.
- Fees (Standard fees)
- Small Entity Fees (Lower fees)
- Micro Entity Fee (Even lower fees)
Next, the USPTO also offers several types of patents, and each of these patents has its own fees for each of these three tiers.
Some of the different types of patents on offer include the following:
- Provisional Patent
According to the USPTO, a provisional patent application “can be used by a patent applicant to secure a filing date while avoiding the costs associated with the filing and prosecution of a non-provisional patent application.”
In other words, applying for this kind of patent provides the applicant with some legal protection while he or she is still developing the invention. This protection lasts for 12 months, at which time the applicant must decide if he or she wants to file for a non-provisional patent application.
A provisional patent is sometimes seen as a lower-cost option and is often the choice of start-ups that still may be developing their technology with limited funding.
- Non-Provisional Patent (or Utility Patent)
This is perhaps the best-known type of patent. It provides more protection than a non-provisional patent for a longer period of time, but the fees associated with it are higher.A patent examiner at the USPTO must examine a non-provisional application to determine if all patentability requirements are met, before a patent can be issued. According to the USPTO, the office “receives more than 500,000 patent applications (every year). Most of the applications filed with the USPTO are non-provisional applications for utility patents.”
- Design Patent
This type of patent focuses on the “visual ornamental characteristics embodied in, or applied to, an article of manufacture.”Basically speaking, a utility patent covers how an invention is used and works; a design patent covers the way it looks. (Learn more about design patents here. )
Design patents have their own patent fees, which are generally lower than the fees for a utility patent. As well, design patents offer 15 years of protection from the date of filing, while utility patents provide 20 years of protection from the date of filing.
Interestingly, a person can file for both a utility patent and a design patent for the same invention, provided it meets the requirements for each type of patent.
As well, a design patent does not have maintenance fees, unlike a utility patent.
- Plant Patent
Perhaps less commonly known but equally important, this type of patent can be granted “to an inventor (or the inventor’s heirs or assigns) who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state.”
Patent filing fees for plant pants are generally lower than those for utility patents, but both provide the same amount of protection–20 years from the date of filing.
- International Patent
This is sometimes also known as PCT application or PCT patent, since it provides protection in the countries that are part of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
Generally speaking, the patent fees for an international patent tend to run higher than they do for other types of patents, but this type of patent can provide coverage in a wider range of countries around the world.
- More Patent Fees and Even More Patent Fees
In addition to the basic patent fee for filing a patent application, the USPTO also charges several other fees, including a patent search fee ($540 for a basic utility patent) and an examination fee ($220 fee).
Even after a patent has been granted, the patent fees continue. The USPTO charges post-allowance fees, including a fee to issue the patent ($1,000 for a utility patent).Then, there are maintenance fees that the USPTO charges. For a utility patent, these are as follows:
There are also possible post-issuance fees that may need to be paid, depending on your situation.
2) Attorney Fees
Though the USPTO fees are mandatory, when it comes to attorney fees, it is entirely up to the inventor to decide how much money (if any) should be spent on hiring a patent attorney or patent agent.
Truth be told, it can be possible for an individual inventor to use today’s free and budget patent search tools and the abundant online resources to file a DIY-patent application at a very low patent cost, without the assistance of an attorney.
Having said that, it is always good to keep in mind the old saying: “You get what you pay for.”
While attorney fees can run high, this investment can be well worth it, especially when it comes to conducting a patent search with a written analysis before filing and/or drafting a strong, litigation-proof quality patent.
This is especially true for more complicated patents. Software patents, in particular, can usually benefit from the experience of an expert in this field. As well, for those who may be thinking of taking care of patent applications by themselves, it is good to remember that while the patent cost of attorney fees may be higher initially, it may end up being more cost-effective in the long run, especially if a poorly drafted patent requires many costly revisions or responses to Office Actions (OAs) or even a complete re-drafting by a patent professional.
A good rule of thumb for patent attorney costs seems to be at least $1,000 for a relatively simple patent all the way up to $10,000 or more for a complicated patent, with $3,000 to $5,000 being the average (in addition to the USPTO fees).
3) Drawing Fees
While the USPTO fees are mandatory and attorney fees are variable (but often end up being the biggest expense in the patent application process), drawing fees are another important piece of the patent-filing-expenses puzzle.
As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and that is certainly true when it comes to patent drawings.
A basic ballpark figure for a complete set of patent drawings is about $300 to $500, depending of course on the size and complexity of the invention.
Is the Cost of a Patent Worth It?
The answer to this question once again depends on each individual’s situation.
On the one hand, you have evidence saying that “statistics show that up to 97% of patents generate less revenue than they cost to obtain.” In other words, there are definitely costs involved in filing for a patent, and even after a patent has been granted and issued, there are still maintenance costs involved for the remainder of the patent’s lifespan.
Yet, on the other hand, there are numerous benefits that patents can provide, including the legal protection of an invention, licensing and selling opportunities, and a business and technological advantage over competitors, among many others.
When it comes down to it, a cost-benefit analysis might just be the best way to see if a patent is worth the time and expense. And now that you have some guidelines for the basic patent costs involved in filing a patent application, you are on the right track to making a better and more informed decision about this.