Filing and obtaining a patent is a time-intensive, often expensive process that should be thoroughly researched before being initiated. Each year, hundreds of thousands of patents are filed, and the costs for each one are different.

Although estimating an exact cost of filing a patent is difficult, you can at least get an idea of what costs you’re likely to incur during the process. This can give you a ballpark figure that will allow you to approach patent filing with enough time and financial resources to keep the process going throughout the lifetime of your invention.

Estimating Patent Costs

Above all else, it should be noted that patent costs vary so widely that they can’t be estimated accurately without the help of an attorney, who will be able to give you a better estimate once they’re acquainted with the features and characteristics of your invention.

Two important factors that will affect your patent filing costs are:

  • Complexity of the invention being patented
  • The type of patent application being filed

Though there are many other issues involved, these can give you a better idea of how much your costs will likely be. You can get an objective view of these by also discussing them with an attorney, who’s industry experience may give you immediate insight into your potential costs.

Factor #1: The Complexity of Your Invention

The idea is simple: the more complex your invention, the longer it will take to prepare a filing application, and the more money you’ll spend making sure it’s done correctly. This is often the case when you use an attorney by the hour – your ultimate legal costs will depend on how much time it takes your attorney to properly document and prepare your application.

If your invention is in an industry that is relatively new, your patent application may need more background information and drawings to explain all the functions and designs you’re looking to patent. The complexity of the innovation behind the product, then, will determine, in part, the length of its preparation time.

Here, Gene Quinn of notes that although many inventors want to think their invention is simple and easily describable, the truth is that “most…inventors know deep down that the patent application process is a complex process.” So it’s important to understand that complexity is a relative term, and that the time you’ve spent on your invention may make appear simpler than it really is.

Complicated inventions will also require more drawings, and if you’re hiring a professional draftsperson to do the work – which is highly recommended – this will also increase your costs.

The Breakdown: a more complex invention requires more description, more drawings and more background. All this leads to more billed hours for the attorney preparing your patent application, and this will be reflected in your filing costs.

Factor #2: Types of Patent Applications

Though there are many different types of patent applications, we’ll talk about two for simplicity’s sake: provisional and nonprovisional patent applications. Choosing the provisional application may reduce your costs upfront, but it can also increase your long-term costs, too. Here’s how each one will affect your patent filing expenses.

Provisional Patent Costs

A provisional application is different from a nonprovisional patent in that it is temporary, lasting only 12 months. It offers patent pending status and protection like a regular patent, but provisional patent applications are not subject to the same examination and waiting period.

Filing a provisional application costs less upfront, but if you plan on filing a nonprovisional application in the future, it essentially adds to your overall costs. This can be helpful if you still need to acquire funding for a regular patent, or if you’re still testing the sustainability and marketability of your invention.

Filing a nonprovisional application from the start will increase your upfront costs, but it may eliminate overall costs because you’re only filing one application, and not two spread out over time. In either case, your patent application will have to be effectively prepared in order to be granted.

The Breakdown: Filing a 12-month provisional patent application can save money upfront, and may be useful for inventors still perfecting or researching their inventions. But it can also mean extra costs if you eventually file a regular nonprovisional application.

Additional Costs to Consider

The preparation and filing of your patent application may be the bulk of your expenses, but there are other costs you’ll incur along the way as well.

Patent search. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers a free patent search and database system to the public, available here. It’s typically expected that the inventor did an initial, if basic, search on his or her own, but doing a comprehensive patent search with the help of an attorney is recommended.

The cost for this varies on the scope of the search, as well as the industry and complexity of the invention. It should, in many cases, be considered a mandatory cost and part of the due diligence process that ensures something very similar to your invention is not already patented.

Post-filing fees. There may be fees and surcharges for your application if it is not complete – if you have to send in additional documents after the application has already been prepared. Patent processing is complicated and it often happens that a required part or document must be included after the initial preparation.

There are also fees associated with a granted patent, such as the publication fee for the USPTO website, which is $300.

USPTO office actions. Rarely is a patent application granted without any rejections. When the USPTO reviews your application, which typically takes a year or longer, they’ll send any action items you’ll need in order to adjust and complete your application. These action items can be costly, especially if there are multiple issues.

Maintenance fees. Utility patents are subject to maintenance fees over the course of their 20-year lifespans, and these fees occur at 3.5 years ($800), 7.5 years ($1,800), and 11.5 years ($3,700). These fees keep the patent valid, and if they’re missed, can result in the patent expiring before the 20-year mark.

The Best Patent Cost Estimator is Your Attorney

As you can see, there are far too many factors involved in filing a patent to accurately estimate its costs. This is especially true for costs after the patent has been granted – if you face litigation or other legal issues that require action on your part to protect your patent, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in patent costs.

Before you’re that far in the process, it’s best to discuss your patent needs with an attorney who can personally provide you with a ballpark range of patent costs. Expenses quotes by your attorney will be based on his or her hourly rates, the market conditions, and even geographic differences (professionals in New York and California are likely to be more expensive).

Get an Accurate Patent Cost Estimation Today

If you need help determining the costs of filing your patent, contact JacksonWhite Law today. The intellectual property law team can offer an actionable strategy that balance your financial resources with comprehensive protection of your intellectual assets.

Call JacksonWhite at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your Intellectual Property case today.

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