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How Much Does a Patent Cost (According to a Patent Attorney)

November 1, 2021

Inventors are filled with creativity, technical knowledge, and specialist skills – a solid legal background isn’t usually required; until you need a patent.

A patent is a legal way to protect your unique product from other people profiting off it or claiming it as their own, but they can be tricky, expensive, and time-consuming to get.

How tricky? In an 1892 Supreme Court judgment, it was said that a patent was “one of the most difficult legal instruments to draw with accuracy.”

When the law gets difficult, costs mount up, and so do the costs of filing for a patent.

It doesn’t have to be that way, so we’re going to walk you through:

●       The elements that make up the cost of a patent

●       The different ways you can file for a patent

●       Patent costs based on the type of filing

●       Other costs that crop up during the filing of a patent

Then, we’ll finish by giving you solid examples of how much a patent costs for different use cases and answer all the questions you need answers. With nearly $19 billion spent on patent and trademark legal services each year, it’s big business, so let’s cut through the jargon and get into how much a patent costs.

Table of Contents

The 3 Factors that Determine the Cost of Filing a Patent

Your Options When it Comes to Patent Filing

The Cost of Filing a Patent for 3 Different Patent Application Types

Additional Costs Associated with Filing a Patent

Cost Breakdown of 3 Examples of Patents

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The 3 Factors that Determine the Cost of Filing a Patent

Anyone researching a patent price will already know, applying for a patent can be an expensive task.

The value of protecting your intellectual property through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can far outweigh the legal and filing fees you’ll need to pay.

Your patent costs will broadly be made up of:

  • Legal fees
  • Drawing fees
  • Filing fees

With lots of factors that determine precisely how much each one will cost. Let’s explore which factors will go into the cost of patent protection for your application.

Factor #1: How detailed your description is

The first and most important factor that’ll determine your patent fees is the depth and quality of the patent disclosure.

What information you give to the USPTO and how much detail is included will bear the success of your application and the cost.

A logical first step when going through the patent process is to organize drawings made up.

Consider how many words it would take you to describe how your new invention works. Now consider how many drawings can do the same thing. For example, a typical patent application for a simple invention can have five to ten drawings, while significant cases can have drawings running into the hundreds.

Depending on your skillset, it may be best to pay someone experienced in patents for your type of invention to draw up everything you need for your application. But, of course, the more complicated your design and the more drawings you’ll need, the more these drawings are going to cost you.

Along with the drawings, there need to be several annotations that link your drawings to the text that goes into your Detailed Description.

You can find some concise guidelines from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in MPEP Section 2163.

In brief, this lays out the minimum requirements for how detailed your application needs to be.

Why does the level of detail matter in your patent application?

A detailed description of the first iteration of your invention will make subsequent amendments much easier.

It also should give you more protection of your intellectual property when there is a good level of detail.

It’s easy for a patent application to become a small book – and if you’re paying a patent lawyer to file for your invention’s patent protection, you’re looking at $300-800 per hour. So here’s the next factor that adds to the cost of a patent.

Depending on your skillset, it may be best to pay someone experienced in patents for your type of invention to draw up everything you need for your application. But, of course, the more complicated your design and the more drawings you’ll need, the more these drawings are going to cost you.

Along with the drawings, there need to be several annotations that link your drawings to the text that goes into your Detailed Description.

You can find some concise guidelines from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in MPEP Section 2163.

Here’s the next factor that adds to the cost of a patent.

Factor #2: Covering your invention for design- arounds

Drawing up and writing out your patent application is just the first tranche of money you’ll spend in the patenting process.

Of course, you’re applying for a patent to protect your intellectual property, but your competitors may love your idea so much they want to make their version that’s not the same.

This is known as a “design-around,” where another company works to emulate the product you’ve gone through the patent application process for without infringing on your claim.

While the exercise of designing around a patent can help drive innovation, you don’t want this to happen to your hard work, so you need to do everything you can to protect your patent.

You, as the inventor, will need to work with a lawyer specialized in intellectual property law and pay for the ensuing attorney’s fees that come from this work.

As you’d expect, the more potential design-around and the higher complexity of the invention, the higher the patent’s cost becomes. The third contributor to the cost of a patent is next.

Factor #3: Making broad but defensible claims

Drafting a patent claim is the most complicated part of writing a patent application.

Your patent claim defines the elements of your invention as unique – everything else up to this point is describing how it functions.

This means independent inventors need to know how to make broad claims to protect their work yet detailed enough to not infringe on the prior art of other inventors.

Sounds complicated, right?

This is where lawyer fees can mount up, but it’s worth considering the value their input will have. 

You need to ensure your claim draft identifies all the elements of your invention and how they work together, i.e., whether they’re dependent or independent claims.

A lot of knowledge and experience is needed to draft a claim – the lawyer needs to know about the current market and consider the future to try and prevent future design-around.

With experience comes a cost, and this is one of the most significant chunks of a cost of a patent.

Terms and phrases used in the claims must find clear support or antecedent basis in the description so that the meaning of the terms in the claims are clearly understood by consulting the description. That’s how your costs build up with a patent filing. Here are the different ways to approach filing your patent.

Your Options When it Comes to Patent Filing

Patents are necessary to make sure your small business gets the recognition it deserves for the inventions it makes.

The traditional way of filing for a patent is to use a patent lawyer and pay the associated attorney fees.

You have alternatives that help keep your patent application cost at a level you can afford. Let’s look at the four options you have to file a patent application.

Option #1: Use patent law firms

When filing a patent application, your first thought is likely to be to use a patent lawyer.

Not every lawyer can deal with patents and intellectual property (I.P.) law; they usually:

  • Have an engineering or design degree
  • Have a law degree
  • Pass a state bar exam
  • Pass the patent bar exam
  • Register as a patent attorney with the USPTO

A registered patent attorney will guide you through patenting your invention with their years of experience and offer legal advice when needed.

The pros of using a patent attorney are:

  • Vast experience with writing and filing patents, whether you have a simple or complex invention
  • Expertise is a targeted area of IP law, meaning you get accurate and up-to-date advice
  • You can be sure that you won’t miss a step in the process of filing a patent

There are some drawbacks to using a patent law firm, such as:

  • You can feel like you don’t have much control or input into the patent application process
  • Finding a patent lawyer with the specialist knowledge you need can be a challenge

The expertise of a patent lawyer makes them very costly

The cost of using a patent law firm

According to the American Intellectual Property Law Association, in 2019, the typical billing rate for a patent attorney was $516 per hour for law firms with 101 or more employees.

The median hourly rate across all business sizes was $400 in 2018.

To give you perspective on that rate – a simple patent claim can take roughly 40 hours to put together. So with those rates, you can expect a lawyer-filed patent cost to be $15-20,000.

Option #2: Use books to learn how to “do-it-yourself”

After seeing the total cost of hiring a patent attorney, you might consider turning to DIY solutions and using books to coach you through the process.

Indeed, there are plenty available as physical and ebooks and can range from a few dollars to a couple hundred depending on how much detail they have.

DIY patent books can be written by anyone, with people like entrepreneurs and lawyers selling their secrets to reduce the cost of a patent.

There are some benefits to writing your patent after reading a book, such as:

  • A reduction in the financial outlay you have to invest in the process
  • You get to learn a new skill along the way
  • You can start to learn about the process from scratch which can be helpful in the future

However, there are clear downsides to filing your patent after reading a book:

  • Patent law can change and you can’t be sure how up-to-date and accurate it is
  • It can still take months to learn the process and you need to invest a lot of time when you could be running your business
  • It can feel very easy to file a patent and you may avoid seeking legal advice even when it’s necessary

The cost of reading a DIY patent book

Taking an average of the first ten books listed in Amazon with the search term “how to file a patent,” the cost is $18.62. However, it’s worth noting that the average publication date of those same books is 2016, so they are already potentially out-of-date.

You also need to add on application fees, an examination fee, a search fee, and other costs associated with applying yourself.

When weighing up the pros and cons of this option, consider your hourly rate when doing the work you’re skilled at – the costs can quickly mount up, and this can become an expensive option. Also, consider that your expertise is in the field you work in, and learning how to speak the language of patents through books can give you an application that’s not the best it can be. 

Option #3: Use services such as Legalzoom

There are many options online for patent services, with Legalzoom being a notable example.

On this site – and others like it – users can get a range of templates for contracts and other legal issues and can help them avoid using a lawyer in many cases.

The company offers patent application services and is a significant trademark filer; in its 2020 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, LegalZoom noted that it filed 6% of all trademark applications in the U.S. – around 25,000 applications in total.

The cost of using Legalzoom

There are many options online for patent services, with Legalzoom being a notable example.

On this site – and others like it – users can get a range of templates for contracts and other legal issues and can help them avoid using a lawyer in many cases.

The company offers patent application services and is a significant trademark filer; in its 2020 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, LegalZoom noted that it filed 6% of all trademark applications in the U.S. – around 25,000 applications in total.

The cost of using Legalzoom

To use Legalzoom’s utility application process, you need to follow two steps:

  1. A consultation and review by a patent lawyer or patent agent with four pages of drawings, which will cost $699
  2. Utility application preparation with up to ten claims and five pages of specifications, costing $2,400

Option #4: Use PowerPatent’s AI-led technology

PowerPatent uses A.I. and automated systems to help you navigate your way through a patent application and reduce costs.

To use the tool, you’re asked to provide a paragraph to describe the problem you’re looking to solve, the background of your invention, and what your solution is – a summary of your invention. 

Next, you upload drawings showing how your invention works, along with part-list annotations for the drawings.

You can then run diagnostics on the text to catch numerical inconsistencies and pick up on claims not included in your description.

From there, the A.I. does its job and creates a proposed text for a utility patent application that you can make edits and revisions to. 

Once everything is completed, you export the document as a Word file, and it’s ready to be submitted to the USPTO. It’s recommended that, If you’ve not filed a patent application before, you should have a professional patent review the application before submitting it.

That’s all the ways you can choose to file a patent; with an idea of how much it’ll cost, let’s look at more specific details for the cost of a patent.

The Cost of Filing a Patent for 3 Different Patent Application Types

There are three broad types of patent applications, each with different costs.

It’s not just the type of application that you file that’ll determine the costs of your application – how much you pay will depend on the size of your company.

Organizations classed as a small entity or a micro-entity can pay reduced fees for patent applications compared to a large entity.

A small entity under USPTO rules is defined as either an individual, a business with less than 500 employees, a university, or a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

A micro-entity must also have less than four patents in their name, have a gross income no more than three times the median household income in the U.S. as reported by the Bureau of the Census, and have not filed more than four applications.

You can also be classed as a micro-entity if you work for a higher education institution and the majority of your income comes from this job. Again, we’ll note the difference in fees for each entity type as we go through the different patent application fees.


Provisional patent application

A provisional patent application gives you up to 12 months to develop your ideas and claims before completing a full filing.

When you complete a provisional filing, you’ll be able to give your invention a patent-pending status, and your patent filing date begins from the date of the provisional application. The costs for a provisional patent application for a utility patent if done by law firms are:

Non-provisional patent application

You can choose to file a non-provisional application following your provisional application, or you can file the non-provisional application without filing the provisional first. Utility patent costs for a complete application are:

Design patent

A design patent application is different from a utility patent in that it protects the way your invention looks rather than its functionality. The design patent costs that you pay to lawyers and the USPTO filing fees breakdown as:

Additional Costs Associated with Filing a Patent

Along with the standard costs for filing a patent that we’ve just looked at, you need to be aware of some additional fees and expenses.

You may choose to do an independent search during the patent prosecution before filing your application with the Patent Office.

A search fee will depend on how complex your patent application is and can cost $1,000 to $3,000.

When a patent is issued, you need to pay an issue fee, which has three different prices depending on the type of patent and whether you’re a small or micro entity:

Once you’ve had your patent issued, you need to consider your patent maintenance fees. This is the cost to keep your patent in place once it’s no longer provisional and needs to be renewed after three and a half, seven and a half, and 11.5 years.

Those USPTO fees are as follows:

Next, you need to consider pursuing an international patent using your rights under the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Treaty.

An international application can help you patent your invention in up to 150 countries through a simplified patent search process.

The three fees you need to pay to start the Patent Cooperation Treaty, or PCT application process are:

  • An international filing fee of 1,330 Swiss francs (approx. US$1,435)
  • A search fee of between 500 and 2,000 Swiss francs (approx. US$540 – US$2,160), depending on the person completing the patent search for you
  • A transmittal fee, which is set by the receiving office and can vary

From here, you receive a report after an international search has been done, and you can decide which foreign countries you want to pursue your patent claims.

Each country has different legal and government fees,  patent costs, and processes you’ll need to handle. Those are the main extra costs you may encounter when filing a patent application; let’s look at some detailed examples.

Cost Breakdown of 3 Examples of Patents

Understanding the cost of a patent requires you to decide how you want to complete the process. Each patent application process will look a little different, and costs can vary, but you can use this information to give you an idea of how much different patents cost.

Example #1: Software

A software patent can be expensive since a lot of technical information is requested by patent courts.

This means the patent application will likely be classed as “highly complex” when looking at the legal fees involved.

A software patent can be expensive since a lot of technical information is requested by patent courts.

This means the patent application will likely be classed as “highly complex” when looking at the legal fees involved.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

The patent filing costs you can expect for a piece of software are rough:

  • Filing fees for a provisional application: $300
  • Filing fees for one claim with no dependent claims, search, and examination fees: $1,820 
  • Search fees with an opinion: $3,000
  • Professional illustrations: $400

It’s worth noting that the filing fees are often included in the attorney fees, although you should always confirm before entering into an attorney-client relationship.

Example #2: Consumer product

By consumer product, we will be looking at a relatively simple item like a board game or flashlight.

Photo by ALESSANDRO SKOCIR on Unsplash

To patent a consumer product that’s not too complicated would cost roughly:

  • Filing fees for a provisional application: $300
  • Filing fees for one claim with no dependent claims, search, and examination fees: $1,820
  • Attorney fees $8,500 
  • Search fees with opinion: $1,250
  • Professional illustrations: $400

Example #3: Engineering invention

If we assume that an engineering invention is relatively complex, such as a hydraulic suspension system, there are different costs.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

For this type of complexity in your invention, you can expect the costs of a patent to look like this:

  • Filing fees for a provisional application: $300
  • Filing fees for one claim with no dependent claims, search, and examination fees: $1,820
  • Attorney fees: $14,000
  • Search fees with opinion: $2,000
  • Professional illustrations: $400

That’s the details you need about the potential cost of filing a patent using the traditional method of hiring a patent attorney; let’s bring this to a close.

Now Over to You

That’s everything you need to know about the cost of filing for a patent.

When you have something unique and original, the investment to protect your intellectual property can be well worth it.

Costs can vary depending on your use options, with a patent attorney being the most expensive option.

PowerPatent uses cutting-edge A.I. and machine learning to make filing a process more cost-effective and efficient. Contact us to discuss your patent needs and understand the processes you need to follow.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Filing for a patent takes a lot of work, and there are lots of laws and processes to follow. We know how challenging it is, so we’ve answered some of the questions that come up most often about the costs of a patent.

Q1. What is the cheapest way to get a patent?

The cheapest way to get a patent is to complete the process yourself; since you’ll spend the least money. However, this will take a lot of time and learning that you can spend better elsewhere, so using an AI-driven solution like PowerPatent to work through the process with you can be a more cost-effective way to get a patent.

Q2. Can you get a patent for free?

No, at a minimum, you need to pay the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office patent filing, search, examination, and issuing fees, even if you do all the other work yourself.

Q3. Are patents worth the money?

Whether a patent is worth the money depends on various factors, such as whether you can sell enough of your product to make back your initial investment of time and cash. A patent gives you up to 20 years to make money from your original idea before anyone else can copy it, so there is a large window with the potential to make money.

Q4. How many patents can you buy at once?

You can file multiple claims in one patent filing, with extra costs for more than 20 claims in one application and no upper limit. The claims need to be related to the same product, and you can file as many separate claims as you want and can afford.

Q5. How much is a patent renewal?

A patent can be renewed three times during its lifetime, after three and a half, seven and a half, and 11.5 years. The standard fees are $2,000, $3,760, and $7,700 respectively. A patent can’t be extended past the initial 20 years granted.

Q6. Do you need to file your patent in other countries besides the one where the patent is granted?

If you want to protect your intellectual property in a country outside of the United States, you’ll need to file a patent in those countries where you want protection. This process is made simpler using your rights under the Patent Cooperation Treaty that lets you file for searches and examinations in other countries to decide where else you may want to file for a patent.