This is one of several blogs about patenting an invention.
- How much does a patent cost?
This is probably the most frequently asked question. The answer is it depends on several factors. The biggest factor is the complexity of your invention. Here is a rough estimate you can use for budgeting purposes: all-in, a patent will cost about $27,000. The first $15,000 will go to preparing and filing the initial application. You will typically pay that amount up-front. The rest will go to prosecution costs ($5,000) and maintenance fees ($6,300). Those payments will be made over several years.
If your invention is simple, your attorney will probably charge less in preparation fees. If your invention is complex, your attorney will charge more. And of course, the more you can help describe your invention at the level of detail required by the PTO, the less work your patent attorney will have to do, and the more you can save.
Roughly 1-3 years after you file your application, you will pay about $5,000 in prosecution costs. That pays for your attorney to rebut a patent examiner’s rejection of your application and to edit portions of your application until the examiner accepts it. Prosecution costs are difficult to predict in advance. They can easily exceed $10,000.
If you receive a patent, you will pay the PTO an issue fee of about $500 and another $500 for your attorney to review everything and file all the paperwork necessary to transfer control of your patent to you. Then, at the 3.5-year mark, the 7.5-year mark, and the 11.5-year mark, you will pay the PTO $800, $1,800, and $3,700 in maintenance fees (according to 2019 figures). Those amounts assume you are a “small entity.” If you are a large company, the PTO fees are double those amounts.
- What about websites that offer a patent for a few hundred dollars?
Those websites are selling a provisional patent application. A provisional application is only a placeholder. An examiner will never look at it. And you will never get a patent from it. Sometimes a provisional patent application makes sense, but you need to know what you are doing when you file one. Talk to a patent attorney first.
- How much does it cost to patent a simple invention?
If you can explain your invention to a 9th grader in 5 minutes, and the 9th grader will not only understand your invention but be able to build it, you probably have a simple invention. For a simple invention, the patent application portion of the total patenting cost can probably be reduced to around $7,000 rather than $15,000. Remember, however: simple inventions may cost much more to prosecute later, and in the end, you may not receive a patent. Often, the simpler the invention, the easier it will be for an examiner to find evidence that someone else came up with your idea before you did.
- How much does it cost to patent a complex invention?
As the complexity of your invention goes up, the cost will also go up. Most complex patent applications seem to fall in the $20,000 – $30,000 range, with prosecution costs averaging an additional $12,000 – $18,000, for a grand total of between $32,000 and $48,000, not counting the final issue fee and maintenance fees.
If your invention will be particularly important or valuable (for example, you plan to build a new company around it), you may want to think about spending even more money. The additional money will give your patent attorney time to strategize about all the various ways to strengthen your patent and make sure it covers all aspects of your invention.
- How many hours will an attorney need to prepare my patent application?
For budgeting purposes, you should expect your attorney to take around 30 hours to prepare a patent application. Those 30 hours could be spread out over several weeks, depending on the attorney’s backlog and your availability to answer questions and review drafts. If your invention is simple, the attorney will need less time. If your invention is complex, your attorney will need more time. At $500/hour, 30 hours of attorney time equals $15,000.
- How long will it take to get a patent?
The entire patent process can take anywhere from 1 to 6 years after filing an application. Sometimes longer. After your application has been filed, it will be assigned to an art unit inside the PTO. Once you know which art unit will be examining your invention, you can access the PTO website to determine how long it will take for an examiner to issue a first response. After that, delays will be based largely on what the patent examiner says and what your attorney advises.