Patent costs depend on key factors
There is not a one-size-fits-all patent. Patents vary widely in type, complexity, scope of coverage, length of description, etc. The question of cost, therefore, depends upon certain key factors. Perhaps the most important cost factor is choosing between a design patent or utility patent. A utility patent will incur substantially greater costs than a design patent, in terms of both the initial filing and the ongoing prosecution.
How much does a cost to file a patent application?
Initial filing costs are generally easier to estimate than ongoing costs. Keep in mind that these ballpark initial filing estimates do not cover patent searches or responding to rejections. There are three components that make up the initial cost of filing a patent application:
- attorney’s fees (the largest cost by far);
- USPTO government fees (reduced by 50% for small entity applicants such as individuals and companies with fewer than 500 employees); and
- illustrator fees for patent drawings, if necessary.
Assuming that you qualify as a small entity, here are ballpark cost estimates for filing a US patent application:
- Design patent application: approx. $1,500 to $1,800
- Provisional patent application drafted by the inventor(s): approx. $990
- Nonprovisional patent application drafted by our firm: between $7,700 to $16,000
If your eyes are focused on the lower dollar figures for design or provisional patent applications, there are caveats. Design patents do not protect function (how your invention works), and provisional applications will lead to any grant of rights without following through with a nonprovisional application.
Entrepreneurs may want to focus primarily on initial filing costs and determine what their budgets can afford. Our firm offers flat rates for design and utility patent filings. There may be time to raise capital or monetize the invention in order to afford the ongoing costs detailed below.
How much does a design patent application cost after initial filing?
A US design patent application has an allowance rate of over 85%. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that your typical design patent application may not incur substantial ongoing costs other than payment of the issue fee. So, expect to pay an additional cost of roughly $1,000 for covering the issue fee and forwarding the original patent certificate.
How much does a utility patent application cost after initial filing?
Ongoing costs are inevitable with utility patent applications. The question is not if there will be additional costs, but how much. Unlike design applications which generally have a high level of certainty, utility patent applications are wildly unpredictable. Expect the unexpected with utility patent applications.
You will likely receive at least one Office Action rejection. Depending upon the issues raised in the Office Action, a response may range from $900 to $2,800, not including USPTO fees for extensions of time and any excess claims. During the course of prosecution, it would not be unusual to encounter two or more Office Actions in a utility application. At some point, your patent attorney may need to conduct an Examiner Interview to make some progress.
Therefore, ongoing costs in a utility patent application can range from $5,000 to over $30,000. The high end of that range might include an appeal.
How much is the total cost of obtaining a patent?
While ongoing patent prosecution costs may be uncertain, having a sense of rough overall costs of the patent process will help know what you’re getting yourself into. Keep in mind there will always be outliers. For most of the patent filings handled by our firm, the following estimates of the patent application process from start to finish would apply:
- Design patent: approx. $2,000 to $3,500
- Utility patent: approx. $15,000 to $40,000
If the potential to spend up to $40K to get a utility patent gives you sticker shock, then it’s better to recognize that possibility upfront.
Why are utility patent costs so unpredictable?
Simply put, most utility patent applications will get rejected. According to this Yale study of utility patent applications filed from 1996 to 2005, over 86% of all filed utility patent applications received a first rejection called a non-final Office Action, and over 38% of all filed utility applications received a second rejection called a Final Office Action.
So there is a high likelihood that your claims will be rejected over prior art. When that happens, each response to an Office Action may cost between $1,500 to $3,000. The goal is to receive an allowance after responding to one Office Action, but it is not uncommon to receive multiple Office Actions.
Design patent costs are much more predictable due to the high allowance rate of approximately over 84% as of the time of this post.
How much do international patents cost?
Foreign patent costs vary widely by country. Each foreign patent office has their particular local rules and examination guidelines. International patent costs can easily exceed $100,000 for a single patent family depending upon the number of foreign countries desired. There are strategies to streamline international patent prosecution in order reduce foreign patent costs.