Cost to patent an idea

How Much Does It Cost To Get a Patent?

Last Updated on April 4, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Receiving a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides powerful protections for innovators, granting them exclusive rights to commercialize and profit from their inventions for up to 20 years.

But navigating the intricacies of the patent application process can be complex and expensive. This comprehensive guide examines the key costs involved in obtaining a patent in the United States and abroad.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Patent?

The minimum cost to get a patent for a basic invention could range from $2,000 to $5,000, while highly complex global patents could cost $500,000 or more over their lifetime. These costs encompass USPTO fees, attorney services, and any additional expenses associated with the patent process.

Based on the expenses outlined above, total patent costs can vary immensely:

  • Bare minimum– A basic U.S. utility patent filed pro se by the inventor could potentially cost just $2,000-$5,000 in USPTO and preparation fees. But professional assistance is strongly advised.
  • Simple invention patents– For uncomplicated inventions like basic consumer products, $5,000-$15,000 would be reasonable when including USPTO fees and an attorney handling filing.
  • Average utility patents– The norm for moderately complex inventions like computer software or mechanical devices averages $15,000-$35,000.
  • Complex global patents– Pharmaceuticals, biotech, advanced electronics, and highly technical patents with broad international coverage can easily exceed $100,000 in costs when including legal fees.
  • Maximum price– For a critically valuable global patent portfolio in a highly complex field, $500,000+ in total costs over the lifetime is possible when factoring in the high initial filings and ongoing maintenance fees.

While not inexpensive, for many inventors the substantial exclusivity benefits of patent protection make the investment well worth the expense required.

USLawPros highlights the cost of a non-provisional patent application ranging from $7,000 to $14,000, varying based on the law firm. They also discuss costs related to provisional patents for software developers, ranging from $5,000 to $12,000 and the difference between patent agents and patent attorneys.

BlueIron IP provides insights into the costs of filing a patent application, estimating it to be between $8,000 and $15,000 for the attorney, along with additional fees like USPTO filing fees. They also discuss financing options for utility patents and the importance of patent insurance, highlighting the average cost of a utility patent in the US to be over $50,000.

Gearhart Law discusses the cost of software patents in 2024, indicating that moderately complex software inventions can cost between $10,000 and $15,000. They highlight that attorney fees can vary based on the complexity of the software invention.

The Patenting Process

Types of Patents

There are three primary categories of patents available:

  • Utility Patents– The most common type, protecting the functional aspects and usefulness of an invention. Applies to processes, machines, manufactured items, compositions, and more.
  • Design Patents– Protect the unique ornamental appearance and aesthetics of a product, rather than its function. Covers original designs embodied in a physical product.
  • Plant Patents– Issued for new types of asexually reproduced plants like certain hybrids and cuttings. Require detailed botanical descriptions.

Utility patents make up over 90% of all patents filed. Certain innovations may be covered by both a utility and a design patent.

The Patent Application Process

Applying for a patent involves several key steps and phases:

  • Provisional Application (Optional)– A lower-cost initial application that secures the early filing date while allowing a year to finalize the full utility patent application.
  • Non-Provisional Application– The core patent application containing background, description with drawings, claims defining the invention’s scope of protection, and formalities.
  • Filing– Submitting the completed application along with required fees to the USPTO or other patent office. Secures the critical filing date.
  • Formalities Review– The application is checked for completeness of required elements. Deficiencies must be corrected.
  • Prior Art Search– Examiners investigate existing patents, technologies, and products (” prior art”) in the same field to ascertain the invention’s novelty.
  • Examination– The application undergoes substantive examination by patent examiners regarding compliance with patentability rules and requirements.
  • Allowance or Rejection– If approved, a Notice of Allowance is issued. If rejected, the applicant can revise or appeal to argue patentability.
  • Grant– Once amendments are made (if needed) and all requirements met, the patent is granted for up to 20 years from the original filing date.
  • Maintenance Fees– Periodic fees paid to the patent office are required at defined intervals to maintain the granted patent’s active status.

Patent Application & Issuance Fees

Patent process

The USPTO charges a schedule of official fees related to filing, issuance, and maintaining a patent. These government fees vary based on the type of patent being pursued:

Utility Patent Fees

  • Filing Fee – $300-$760 for filing the core application
  • Search Fee – $660-$2,320 covers the examiner’s prior art search
  • Examination Fee – $660 for substantive examination of the application
  • Issuance Fee – $1,200 when the patent is allowed and granted
  • Maintenance Fees – $1,600 – $12,600 paid periodically at 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years after issuance to maintain active status

Design Patent Fees

  • Filing Fee – $200-$560 for filing the core application
  • Examination Fee – $460 for examiner review of the application
  • Issuance Fee – $840 when the patent is granted
  • Maintenance Fees – $800-$2,100 paid periodically at 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years after issuance

Provisional Application Fee

  • Filing Fee – $280 for filing the provisional application
  • (No other USPTO fees associated with provisional applications)

These figures reflect standard undiscounted USPTO fees at the time of writing. Further discounts exist for qualifying small entities.

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Professional & Legal Fees

While inventors can choose to file patent applications themselves pro se, it is advisable for most applicants to hire a registered patent attorney or agent. An experienced patent practitioner can expertly navigate the complex legal terrain and maximize the chances of successfully obtaining a granted patent.

Attorney fees make up the bulk of the total cost for most applicants. Typical tasks and average fees can include:

  • Initial Consultation – $150-$350/hour to assess the invention and provide general guidance
  • Prior Art Search – $1,000-$5,000 to research databases for relevant prior patents and technologies
  • Preparation & Filing – $5,000-$15,000 to draft claims, descriptions, formalities and file the complete application
  • Office Actions & Responses – $2,000-$10,000 if the examiner issues rejections that must be argued or amended
  • Total Average Estimate – $10,000-$35,000+ for a moderately complex utility patent when factoring USPTO fees

However, professional legal fees can easily exceed $50,000 or more for complex global patents in diverse technology fields. These variables include:

  • Attorney Experience & Expertise – Senior attorneys often charge higher hourly rates, but complete work more efficiently. Attorneys specializing in the field of the invention bring added value.
  • Local Market Rates – Hourly attorney and agent fees range based on the cost of living where services are provided, like Los Angeles vs. Kansas City.
  • Application Complexity – Inventions requiring intricate descriptions, claims, and application elements incur more billable time and fees. Simple applications can cost toward the lower end of the range.
  • Back-and-Forth & Rejections – Extensive office actions requiring arguments and claim amendments multiply legal hours significantly. Smooth approvals are most cost-effective.

Additional Direct Costs

Aside from USPTO and attorney fees, other outlays commonly include:

  • Patent Drawings & Figures – Professionally drafted diagrams to illustrate the invention frequently cost $500-$5,000.
  • Foreign Filing Translations – Translating the application into the required local language when filing internationally adds $100-$500 per language.
  • Patentability Assessments – Having an attorney conduct a patentability analysis typically runs $5,000-$10,000.
  • Infringement & Validity Opinions – Legal opinions on infringement and validity average $5,000-$20,000.
  • Patent Office Appeals – Formally appealing a patent examiner’s rejection adds $2,000-$20,000 if required.
  • Prior User Rights Assessment – Investigating prior user rights may cost $5,000-$10,000 depending on complexity.
  • Annuity & Maintenance Fees – Once granted, patents must be maintained through annuity fee payments to keep active, costing $500-$5000 every year.

Expenses accumulate rapidly if claims are initially rejected, necessitating extensive revisions or appeals to eventually achieve approval.

Cost Factors to Consider

Several variables influence the total price tag of obtaining a patent:

Complexity of the Invention

More intricate, detailed inventions require sophisticated claims and ample preparation by patent attorneys to submit an effective application. Simple inventions may cost just $5,000-$10,000, while highly complex inventions could exceed $30,000.

International vs. Domestic Patenting

Pursuing patent protection in multiple countries through WIPO PCT national stage applications rather than just a U.S. patent multiplies costs significantly, often exceeding $50,000+ in professional fees alone when accounting for translations and country-specific requirements.

Effective Prior Art Search

Thoroughly searching for relevant prior art before filing reduces the likelihood of revisions being required, minimizing costs. Poor prior research risks unnecessarily high expenses to redo claims or argue patentability.

Also check out the cost of InventHelp.

Cost Optimization Strategies

Savvy applicants should implement tactics like:

  • Filing a provisional application first to defer fees for a year while perfecting the non-provisional filing
  • Having a legal professional review the application for high quality rather than attempting a DIY patent
  • Conducting exhaustive prior art searches and obtaining patentability opinions
  • Selecting the narrowest viable scope of protection to avoid intricate claim complications
  • Pruning overly dense applications to simplify the draft
  • Choosing the optimal patent type (utility, design) for the invention
  • Only pursuing meaningful international patenting in key strategic markets rather than excessively

Final Words

Obtaining a patent is often a worthwhile endeavor, but one requiring significant financial commitment. However, understanding the typical cost ranges and factors that influence expenses helps inventors plan and budget realistically.

Patent costs correlate closely with the value of protection – a critically important invention warrants more exhausted filings and international coverage. Like any major investment, projecting returns against expenses is a must.

By selecting the optimal patent types, focusing coverage geographically, and diligently preparing filings, applicants can keep costs contained. But patents remain a vital avenue for protecting intellectual property and passing expenses should be weighed accordingly against the commercial opportunity protected. With the right strategic approach, filing a patent can pay dividends for years into the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a 20 year utility patent cost?

The total cost for a 20-year utility patent normally ranges from $10,000-$30,000 in attorney and USPTO fees. Maintenance fees of $1,600-$12,600 must also be paid periodically over the lifetime. International protection through PCT filing can add $30,000+ in additional costs.

How much does it cost to draft a patent application?

Drafting a quality patent application that maximizes the chances of approval generally costs between $5,000-$15,000 in professional legal fees, plus $300-$760 for USPTO filing fees. Simpler patents may cost only $3,000-$5,000 to draft and file.

What do I need to know about getting a patent?

The most important things to understand are the different types of patents, the importance of a prior art search, complexity factors that increase costs, the pros/cons of hiring a patent attorney vs. DIY filing, stages of the application process, and fees involved for USPTO and legal professionals.

What are the five requirements for obtaining a patent?

The five main requirements to receive a U.S. patent are:

  1. Patentable subject matter
  2.  Utility
  3. Novelty
  4. Non-obviousness
  5. Enablement of the invention through sufficient description.

Meeting all criteria is very important but also complex.

How do you ask for a patent?

You apply for a patent by first researching that your invention meets patent requirements. Then you file an application with the USPTO including required sections and fees. A patent lawyer handles the intricate application process for the best results. The USPTO reviews and determines whether to grant a patent after examination.

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