Cost to patent an idea

How Much Does it Cost to Patent an Idea?

Last Updated on February 16, 2023 | Written by CPA Alec Pow
First Published on June 9, 2014 | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popivker

How much does it cost to patent an idea?  It depends. Here are the two ways in which you can patent an idea:

  1. Write and file your own patent application (the cheapest way) – total cost is about $900 for most inventors to get an issued patent (USPTO fees only), although rejection and late hiring of a lawyer might make the costs go up considerably.
  2. Hire a registered patent attorney or patent agent to write and file a patent application for you (the most expensive way) – total cost $5,000-$10,000 mostly in attorney billing time.

When you’ll want to write your own application and file it yourself, the process will be a lot cheaper. In this case, the only fees you have to pay are the official US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) fees.  For most normal and typical inventions, the total cost of the patent will look close to this (Updated in May 2014):

  1. File provisional patent application – USPTO fee $65 (for most inventors, assumes micro entity status)
  2. File non-provisional patent application – USPTO fees (filing fee, search fee, etc.) about $400
  3. Patent Issue fee – USPTO fee $450
  4. Fee for maintenance (due 3.5 years after your patent is allowed) – USPTO fee $400
  5. Fee for maintenance (due 7.5 years after your patent is allowed) – USPTO fee $900
  6. Fee for maintenance (due 11.5 years after your patent is allowed) – USPTO fee $1,850

Remember that these fees are spread over a long period of time and won’t have to be paid all at the same time.

Patent process

The process as shown above, with its cost, assumes that you will be doing all of the work on your own and that you won’t use a patent agent or attorney for the job. Before looking to hire a patent agent or patent attorney, an action that is recommended for non-provisional patent applications, you have to know their billing rates. A lot of known and good patent lawyers will charge anywhere between $200-$400 per hour (you can find a few cheaper ones). This will raise the cost of preparation for the new patent application to anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000 in attorney fees plus the USPTO fees as shown above.

If You Want To Start a New Business, Here Are The Costs You Should Expect

Cost of a Utility Patent With Professional Filing Help

Cost for the Utility Patent Application

For complex applications, you will surely need professional help. This is why you should be prepared to pay between $8,000 and $15,000 to draft the application. Applications for simpler mechanical inventions will be on the lower end, so anywhere between $8,000 and $10,000, while software inventions or medical devices can easily cost between $13,000 and $15,000.

When it comes to applications that are especially complex, they can even go over the $20,000 price mark. Keep in mind that you will also have to pay a government filing fee when you file a patent application. If you’re an individual in charge of a small entity that has up to five hundred employees, you should expect a filing cost of around $800.

Provisional Applications: In the case of very complex applications, if before you file the non-provisional patent you’re going for a provisional one, you might not decrease the total cost of the application. In fact, this might cause the total cost of a patent to become even greater. If you, as the inventor, draft and file a provisional application, this will usually add around $200 or more to the patent cost.

If then, you opt for the help of a patent attorney that will spend time reviewing and editing the patent application, you will likely spend $2,000 to $3,500 for the time they spend editing. Although it is very likely that you will recoup a big part of this expense when you draft the non-provisional application, the cost might not be recovered in full.

Costs after Filing Your Patent Application

You will still have some expenses to face even after you have gone through the patent application process. The good part is that these expenses will only be incurred after the patent has gotten to the US Patent Office for review. This usually happens around eight months or so after you apply for a patent. Keep in mind that the first time they are reviewed, most patent applications will be rejected by the Patent Office.

There is a cost incurred to respond to rejections and it will depend on your individual circumstances. Most of the time, you will spend between $3,000 and $4,500 to respond to a rejection decision. Before the Patent Office decides to allow a certain application, it will usually receive anywhere between one and three rejections. As soon as your filing passes, you will have to spend around $800 to cover the fee, as long as you’re a small entity.

If you were to add everything up, then getting the application allowed and passed through the Patent Office will actually cost between $10,000 and $25,000. Even so, it would be smart to budget more, between $15,000 and $25,000 to make sure you will have a patent issued on the invention.

You should also keep in mind that you never have a guarantee that the patent you’re looking for will even be issued in the end. So even though you might spend all that money, the Patent Office might not issue a patent if it doesn’t consider that your invention is non-obvious and new.

Costs after Your Patent Issues

After your patent is issued, you will have all the rights to prevent others from importing, selling, using, or making your invention. It will take around twenty years for the patent to expire after it has been released. There are maintenance fees you will have to pay if you want to have a patent that is enforceable for this whole period. Currently, the maintenance fees for a small entity will be $6,300.

Cost of a Design Patent Application

Utility patents are usually a lot more expensive than design patent applications. Most law firms will charge about $2,000 for drafting and filing a design patent application.

This fee should be enough to include everything from creating design patent drawings to paying the government filing fees. You might still be faced with rejection while filing a design patent application, but the issues you will be faced with are usually a lot easier to fix, which also means they are less expensive. Design patents also have no maintenance fees.

Budget for patents

Inventors should consider their budget for any invention based on what purpose it will have and the future market opportunities of the invention. Inventors may feel compelled by a definite market opportunity and expand their budget for the actual patent to cover a larger base of protection against possible claims of competitors or similar inventions.

Should the average working Joe patent his idea?

If you feel like you have struck gold and your idea may go viral and become a worldwide phenomenon, then it will be a great idea to protect yourself by getting a patent. Information travels fast and there are a lot of people all around prowling for new business ideas to increase their revenues. Most business ideas can be replicated in under one day, so getting a patent before fully releasing your idea to the public could have a lot of benefits.

Alec Pow
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