The Expenses Involved in Preparing and Filing a Utility Patent Application, as well as Examination Costs
The diagram above depicts when patent costs are incurred. Roughly half of the total patent costs are spent at the beginning of the process, while the remaining half is incurred 9 months to 2 years later, depending on whether an expedited examination request is made. It is crucial for inventors not to solely focus on the overall cost when launching their products. Instead, they should prioritize the short-term cost of preparing and filing the patent application, as this is the minimum expense required to obtain patent pendency and protect their invention. During the patent pendency period, inventors can test market their product or invention.
The overall cost of obtaining a patent can be daunting, especially for cost-conscious start-ups. However, it’s important not to get discouraged. The primary cost to consider is the lower short-term cost of preparing and filing the patent application, which ranges from $5,000 to $10,000. The long-term examination costs can be deferred for approximately 2 to 2.5 years after filing the patent application. This can be achieved by initially filing a provisional patent application and subsequently submitting the nonprovisional application without a request for examination. Nevertheless, the short-term cost of preparing and filing the patent application cannot be postponed because it establishes patent pendency and provides priority from the filing date. It also allows inventors to safely market their invention until the patent is granted.
During the period between filing the patent application and incurring examination costs, no significant legal fees are accumulated. This provides inventors an opportunity to market their invention and assess its viability. If market testing reveals that the invention is not viable, there is no need to proceed with examination costs. Conversely, if customers respond positively to the product, it may be an indication to invest more money in the examination process to secure the patent. Thus, it is not necessary to focus on the downstream, long-term patent costs when initially launching a product. Examination costs are incurred later, after sufficient time has been given to test market the invention.
For most inventors, the cost of preparing and filing a patent application (i.e., securing patent pendency) is more crucial as it is the minimum expense required to establish patent pendency and launch the product.
To learn more about how costs can vary based on your chosen strategy, refer to the Patent Cost Framework and Cash Flow article.
Factors Affecting Patent Application Costs
The actual cost of obtaining a patent, or securing patent pending status, depends on several factors:
Factor 1: Complexity of the Invention
In general, the cost of preparing a patent application is determined by the complexity of the invention. The more intricate the invention, the higher the patent cost, and vice versa. Complex inventions demand more time for patent attorneys to incorporate all the necessary details into the application.
|Devices of Medium Complexity
|$5,000 to $8,000
|$7,000 to $9,000
|$8,000 to $10,000
|1. No moving parts 2. Operation of wrench
|1. Limited moving parts 2. Some motion (e.g., adjustable head and operation of wrench)
|1. Complex internal mechanism 2. Reversible direction and operation of wrench
However, it is worth noting that the simplest inventions may sometimes cost more than complex ones. When an invention is complex, the patent attorney may not need to invest as much effort in structuring the application. Conversely, when an invention is very simple, extra time is required to fully comprehend all the nuanced benefits of the invention. These benefits need to be described in detail to prevent them from being overshadowed by the invention’s simplicity.
Factor 2: Business Environment
The business environment in which the invention operates should be taken into account when estimating the patent application cost. For instance, emerging technologies such as blockchain might require a more extensive disclosure, resulting in additional time and effort. Conversely, a minor enhancement to existing technology, such as belts, may necessitate less explanation and therefore less time and money.
Factor 3: Goals of the Inventor
The goals of the inventor have a significant impact on patent costs. For example, if the inventor desires maximum patent protection, preparing a suitable patent application becomes more challenging. The additional work involved may include describing the invention in multiple ways, covering all aspects comprehensively, and presenting claims that exceed the government filing fee for a non-provisional patent application.
However, if the inventor is willing to focus on the novelty of their invention, costs can be considerably reduced.
Factor 4: Experience of the Patent Attorney
The choice of a patent attorney or firm plays a crucial role in determining the cost of protecting an invention. Attorneys can be categorized into three groups:
- Large law firms
- Specialized patent law firms
- Solo practitioners
Large law firms charge significantly higher fees than specialized patent law firms. For startups and mid-sized businesses, large law firms are often unnecessary and costly. Specialized patent law firms strike a balance between quality, cost, and service. They have multiple patent attorneys and can effectively distribute the workload. The quality of service provided by mid-sized intellectual property law firms is comparable to that of larger firms but at a more competitive price. Solo practitioners’ prices range from very cheap to moderate, but caution is advised as some may lack the expertise they claim to possess.
For a more detailed explanation, please read Who can help you get a patent?.
Online Provisional Patent Application Services
Online companies also offer low-cost patent application services. Although these companies may seem appealing due to their affordability, it is crucial to determine whether their services provide the necessary quality.
Not all provisional patent applications are created equal. Some low-cost options compromise the comprehensive disclosure required for effective patent pendency. These applications often include only a superficial explanation of the invention, allowing them to keep the costs low. As a layperson, it may be challenging to distinguish between good-quality and poor-quality work.
Balancing Cost and Value
While it is possible to interview multiple patent attorneys to obtain accurate cost estimates, the cost of preparing and filing a patent application does not directly correspond to its value. Applications prepared by different attorneys that cost the same amount may not provide the same level of quality.
Different approaches can be adopted when preparing a patent application. Some attorneys may provide a straightforward discussion and explanation of the invention, spending minimal time thinking outside the box to better understand the invention as a whole. Others may immerse themselves in the invention, identifying additional benefits and features that the inventor may have overlooked. Both attorneys may charge similar fees, but the resulting applications will differ greatly in value. The latter attorney would offer better value for the cost incurred by the inventor.
Unfortunately, it can be challenging for inventors to determine which patent attorney is the best fit for their needs. Drawing from personal experience, I understand the difficulties faced by inventors when selecting legal representation. To assist inventors in making informed decisions and securing proper patent protection, I have dedicated myself to educating them about the patent process. By equipping inventors with knowledge, they can differentiate between good and bad advice and make smart, cost-effective decisions.
Education holds great importance in my family. When my parents immigrated from Korea in 1972, their limited English skills did not hinder them from emphasizing the importance of education. To empower inventors, I believe it is necessary for them to possess a working knowledge of the patent system. This way, they can discern whether a patent attorney is providing sound advice. To this end, I have published the book Navigating the Patent System and offer numerous free resources on my blog, enabling inventors to understand the patent process better and make informed decisions.
Design Patent Application Costs
So far, we have focused on utility patents. However, it is also possible to obtain a design patent for your product. The cost of preparing and filing a design patent application is significantly lower compared to a utility patent. The total cost of securing a granted design patent typically ranges from $3,000 to $5,000. However, this article does not cover the cost of design patents.
Encouragement for Inventors and Startups
Understanding the costs associated with the patenting process can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, the fundamental strategy remains the same. Usually, inventors bear the cost of preparing and filing a patent application to secure patent pending status. After achieving patent pending status, there are no significant additional patent costs until the examination of the application commences. Therefore, inventors should primarily focus on the preparation costs, rather than the other expenses mentioned earlier. While it’s important to be aware of these additional costs, the most significant expense is usually the one required to achieve patent pending status, which often amounts to between $5,000 and $10,000 for many inventions. Discuss with your patent attorney how to reduce the preparation costs for your patent application.
For more information, please read Highs and Lows of the Patent Process.
Rev. 7/9/19, 7/10/19