How much does it cost to patent an idea? This is a critical question when you’re starting the patent application process.
The cost to apply for a patent is only part of the total patent fees that inventors must consider: revising, prosecuting, issuing, and maintaining a patent all add to the cost.
You can do a lot to keep the cost to file a patent down and much of it you can do before you ever talk to a lawyer.
How much does a patent cost?
The actual cost to file a patent is a small part of the total cost of getting a patent. The fee is a few hundred dollars, half as much for small entities (like small businesses) and a quarter as much for individual inventors.
When most people talk about patents they are talking about utility patents.
The utility patent cost does not come from the patent office but from the cost of paying a lawyer to prepare the application.
Utility patent applications typically cost thousands of dollars. Simple inventions may cost a few thousand and more complex inventions can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
What you are paying for is the lawyer’s time. Unlike other types of lawyers, patent lawyers commonly have technical degrees in addition to their legal training. In high technology fields, like biotechnology or computers, patent lawyers often have PhDs or advanced technical training.
Patent lawyers often manage a team of specialists: technicians with expertise in the field, illustrators to make figures and paraprofessionals that make sure the filings are complete. All of this adds up, and quickly, making utility patents expensive.
In addition to the cost of preparing and filing your application for patent, you may need to pay a lawyer to negotiate with the patent office on your behalf. Each response your attorney sends to the patent office can cost over a thousand dollars and the patent office can make several rejections.
You may even have to appeal the patent examiner’s decision to the internal review board in the patent office or to the federal courts. That costs even more money.
How much does a patent cost? Considering that most of that expense comes from legal bills, there is one obvious way to cut costs.
Do it yourself
You can file patent applications for your own inventions. It costs a lot less, but is a huge amount of work and will lack the benefit of a trained professional.
That last point is crucial because there are a large number of seemingly minor mistakes that will compromise your ability to get a good patent for your invention. There is a reason that patent lawyers pay more for malpractice insurance than almost any other kind of lawyer.
If you want to save money and get the best patent possible then do some of the work yourself. A great start is to conduct your own patent search. Today, you have amazing tools at your disposal. Google allows you to search patents, academic papers and websites to find what other inventors, authors and companies are up to.
Social networks allow you to reach out to people in the same technical field and see what they are doing. You can make more informed decisions than ever before - all before ever meeting with a lawyer.
When would you prefer to find out about the article describing your exact invention and possibly blocking your application altogether — after six hours searching or after six thousand dollars of legal bills?
You can also draft your own patent application. Find a patent that is related to your invention and use it as a template. Make your own drawings, coin the phrases that describe the novel parts of your invention, write your own claims.
Bring it with you when you meet your lawyer. If they won't give you a break on their bill, then maybe you should find a new lawyer.
If you are not ready to invest in a patent but want to protect your rights, file a provisional patent.
In the United States, inventors can submit a draft patent application and, within a year of filing, convert it to a full utility application.
Provisional patent applications have fewer formalities, so they are less expensive to draft. The subsequent utility application can also fix and refine the application.
A provisional patent still has to have enough information to prove that you had fully thought out the invention and done enough work to really make it work.
Utility patents protect specific kinds of things: machines, methods or systems. There are other kinds of patents that exist, which do not require such complex applications or drawn out prosecution. A design patent, for example, protects the way an invention looks.
Design patents protect fashion items, the design of manufactured goods, the shape of medical devices, and the layout of user interfaces.
Design patents can only protect aesthetic design choices. For example, if you invent an improvement for a tool with a handle bent to a particular angle that improves ergonomics, then your invention may be eligible for two different patents.
A utility patent that describes useful handle angles for ergonomics. A design patent describes the way a particular angle looks.
The design patent costs about the same to file, but the application itself is only a few pages and requires only a few drawings.
The patent office’s review is much shorter as well, meaning less expense to get the patent issued. The downside is that your scope of coverage will be limited to tools that look just like your design. Your utility patent may be broader, covering multiple angles and products.
You get what you pay for
Patents can be very expensive but you usually get what you pay for. If you put in some of the effort yourself, you will save some money and end up with a better patent.
Spend some time and make sure you are applying for the correct patent.
Conduct your own patent search and event try to draft some of the patent application yourself. It will keep you engaged with your invention and, if you do hand it over to a professional, save you on the final cost.