How Much Does It Cost to File a Patent?
Reviewed by Carina Jenkins, J.D.
No one wants their original ideas stolen. If you've invented or designed something new and useful, you may want to legally protect your ideas by obtaining a patent.
But how much does a patent cost? You’ll be responsible for paying several fees throughout the process. Here’s a look at what obtaining a patent will do to your pocketbook.
There is a basic filing fee associated with any new patent application. The amount depends on the entity applying for a patent and the type of patent.
U.S. patent laws recognize three types of entities:
- Large entity: This is the default category.
- Small entity: An entity with 500 or fewer employees that meets regulatory requirements. This can be a person, business or nonprofit, but it can't have assigned patent rights to a large entity.
- Micro entity: A micro entity must meet the definitions of a small entity and have one of the following qualifiers: meet gross income limits or be an institute of higher education.
There are three types of patents.
- Utility Patents: These patents protect the way something works or how an item is used. For example, if you invent a new efficient motor, you would apply for a utility patent.
- Design Patents: These protect the unique way an item looks but not how the item functions. One example could be a soda bottle's unique shape.
- Plant Patents: These apply to newly created or asexually reproduced plants, like hybrid species.
There are often additional fees depending on how you're filing or whether you're filing multiple applications. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides the full schedule of possible fees.
A patent search compares your patent application to previously issued patents and already pending applications. A patent search also looks at whether the thing or design exists in the public domain. Patents must be for unique items or non-obvious uses. Things that already exist are sometimes called prior art, and they can't be patented.
Completing a patent search is essential, as your patent is unlikely to be approved without one. A search can also help protect you from future legal problems.
Searching existing patents and applications is difficult, so most applicants should pay for a professional patent search. According to UpCounsel, a professional search can cost anywhere from $100 to $3,000 or more, depending on the complexity of your invention. USPTO fees are also associated with patent searches ranging from $40 to $700.
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U.S. residents aren't generally required to hire a patent lawyer, and many inventors choose to apply for a patent on their own. However, this is risky.
Patent laws and the application process are complicated, and mistakes can be costly. Errors can result in additional fees, denial of your patent or getting sued for patent infringement. An experienced patent lawyer can help you avoid mistakes.
Patent lawyers can:
- Complete and file your patent application and help you create drawings and descriptions needed to apply for the patent
- Help you understand all the fees associated with your patent
- Help to conduct a patent search
- Communicate with USPTO examiners during the application process
A patent lawyer can also help defend you and your patent if there are infringement disputes. Hiring a lawyer to assist with the application can improve your ability to defend your patent in the future.
Full representation from a patent lawyer can be expensive. Patent lawyers often have scientific backgrounds and must meet special licensing requirements to practice before the USPTO.
Patent lawyers may charge anywhere from $200 to $800 or more per hour. Hiring a patent lawyer can potentially cost tens of thousands of dollars. However, suppose you're applying for a patent for a large business or have an invention that's likely to be very profitable. In that case, the cost of expert legal advice may be worth it.
Some lawyers offer flat fees or packages for limited services, which can be much cheaper. For example, you can get help completing an application for a few hundred dollars. However, this won't include much legal advice. Remember that you're still responsible for USPTO fees in addition to what you pay your lawyer.
Additional costs can vary because they depend on your case and how much of the application process you can handle yourself.
You may need to hire an expert or artist to create illustrations for your patent. Patent illustrations are highly technical drawings that need to show measurements, proportions and other information.
You'll have to pay a patent examination fee to USPTO, which can range from $160 to $800. A patent examiner looks at your patent and writes a report on whether the patent should be approved.
If approved, there can be future patent costs as well. These can include maintenance fees and expenses related to defending against patent infringement.
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